Here are some suggestions for using my “Circle Questions” for your women’s small group, retreat, mentoring group, or girls night out. I’ve had lots of trial and error experience using questions like these, and your friends will thank you for learning from my mistakes! Whenever we ask others to unveil and share their hearts, it’s important to handle with care.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Get the Setting Right 

I once tried to use the Circle Questions with my small group at a restaurant. It was noisy, and our food was a distraction, and we kept veering off in other conversational directions. Then someone would say, “Is it my turn? I’ve lost track.” It wasn’t a total flop, but it wasn’t nearly as meaningful as other experiences.

We generally feel more guarded in public. When I’m meeting friends at a restaurant, I wear my newest clothes and touch up my makeup. Because I’m so conditioned to try and look polished and presentable in public, it’s more difficult for me to peel back the veneers of my heart when I’m at Starbucks or Applebees.

Atmosphere is so important. If you want to connect with friends at a heart level, a private setting allows everyone to set aside the invasive public eye for a while and relax. Try to find a place that is peaceful and quiet. Consider asking your friends to make the circle tighter by turning off cell phones and avoiding other interruptions. Lowered lights can help, too. Once, my friends and I stayed up till 3 a.m. answering Circle Questions. It happened when we were out on my friend’s deck with candles in the dark–the perfect place to be real with each other.

So think strategically. Is there a basement or a campfire or a backyard you can use? Create a place where your friends can circle up, link hearts, and let their guard down.

Set Some Rules

This is the hardest part. It feels awkward to introduce structure to a group of chatting women, especially if you aren’t officially the ‘leader’ of your group. But if you are willing to put yourself ‘out there’, and ask everyone to stay within some guardrails, your group will actually relax more because they know what is to be expected and feel safe. At first, there may be a little push back, but you can disarm your friends by saying, “I know, know… it’s different. But would you be willing to try it?”

So the rules are simple. Everyone gets a chance to talk without being interrupted. No one can interject comments or humor or a story that somehow relates. And no side conversations, either. The person with the card gets to talk, and everyone else must validate her by listening. When she’s finished, others may ask follow up questions, but they must truly be questions, not comments. This rule serves as an equalizer, so that the quietest members of the group aren’t drowned out by the talkers (like me).

It’s good to start everyone off with a green ‘Families of Origin’ question. It’s probably the category that is most comfortable for the largest number of people. Plus, it’s the category you probably know least about each other. It gives you another dimension with which to understand each other, and sets a nice foundation for further sharing.

…But Be Flexible

If you’re doing the green cards first, have everyone take several green cards, and choose the question they would most like to answer first. There are about five sets of cards (arranged by category), with 18 cards in each set, so you should have plenty. Each card is a key which can unlock new compartments of your friend’s heart. But the last thing you want is for her to feel cornered or anxious! So give her options.

If someone doesn’t like her three green cards, let her swap them for three new ones from the pile. Or suppose she says she’d rather answer a question card that someone else has. Your default response to requests should be yes!  But don’t let someone ‘pass’. Tell her, “We can wait… Let’s find you a better question.” Even the shyest person truly wants to be known. Give her a gentle nudge and be patient.

Keep in mind that some of the cards will not apply to some women. For example, not everyone in your group may be married or have children. They might want to answer their question about marriage or mothering in general, or answer the question as it relates to their parents’ marriage or parenting style. Whatever the case, be flexible! The goal is for women to answer questions in a meaningful way and connect, not to play a game by the rules.

Ready… Set… Ask a Question

Ready? I hope you have a wonderful time with your group, pulling your circle even tighter with questions. If you do use the cards, I’d love to hear how it goes. What worked? What didn’t? Leave a comment or send me a message!

Remember, don’t be afraid! God has given you this passion to connect. He’s placed you with these other women. Be brave, and take a step of faith. I believe that God will use you to create warm circles of connection! Which warms both God’s heart and mine.

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