10% in Ten Years

circles-logo-300x97I don’t often write about specific ministry programs in this Castings space, but I want to highlight a particular need this week because I truly believe that some of you are called to share in this task and will find it extremely fulfilling.

The ministry is called Circles.  You may have seen and/or read some things recently about this ministry in the Connection E-news or perhaps you have attended one of the information session that have been held.  If you don’t have any awareness of it let me share just a bit of information.  Circles is a ministry that is taking place in a number of cities across the country and now through the initiative of Metro Ministry, is coming to Grand Rapids.

The goal of Circles is to reduce poverty in our city by 10% in ten years.  I like that because it is a reasonable goal.  While I understand the attraction of goals like ending homelessness completely (a goal of one agency whose information meeting I attended when I first came to Grand Rapids), it is really not practical.  And while I am all for Big, Harry, Audacious Goals, I also believe we can get discouraged if we are unrealistic.  So 10% in ten years seems like a pretty significant, yet attainable goal.

Circles seeks to accomplish this task by creating a team (a circle if you will), that works with individuals living in poverty to address the various components of life that put them in that situation.  The goals of Circles are:

  • Empowering people in poverty with skills, knowledge, and support to achieve their goals to become self-sufficient
  • Mobilizing volunteers, community leaders, and organizations
  • Developing leadership
  • Fostering community-level change by raising the community’s poverty IQ
  • Addressing systemic barriers faced by families trying to move out of poverty

The main change agent is the Circle, which consists of a Circles Leader (the person moving out of poverty), the Ally (the person who teams with the Leader to help them accomplish their goals), as well as a team of other support persons providing resources, skills, and hope.  Circles’ unique contribution of long-term relationships (18 month minimum), peer to peer support and accountability, ongoing soft skills training, job competency reinforcement, and the simple presence of a reliable support system has shown proven positive results for those moving out of poverty, and for the communities in which they live and serve.

What I am inviting you to consider is becoming an Ally for someone who is choosing to follow the difficult road out of poverty into a self-sustaining life.  Circles needs some 40 such Allies who are willing to walk this journey alongside a person choosing to change their circumstances.  I believe that in Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas there are 40 United Methodists who might step into this challenge to make a difference in the life of one person, one family, and the community in which we live.

If God is nudging you.  If you are saying to yourself I would love to do that.  If you have said I’m too busy….but God won’t seem to let you go, then I would invite you to follow up and give Circles Director Julie Liske a call.  She can be reached at 616.719.4510.  The web site for Circles is www.circlesgr.org.

Pastors, please think about persons in your congregation who might be allies.  Resist the temptation to keep them to yourself!!

I believe this ministry is truly a win/win for the “leader” and the “ally.” As one person put it:

It is impossible to stay passive or quiet after walking alongside someone as they actively work to improve their lives. Circles brings all of us to the table, we all share our gifts and talents, we all listen and learn, and we all take action.  And the world shifts.” 


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