Circles Walking with the Poor

September 05, 2014

Over the past five years a radically different model has been developed for elevating people out of poverty.  Nationally the United Methodist Church has been very involved in helping to spread the Circles model.
The California-Nevada Conference Committee on Children and Poverty (CCCP) has worked diligently to introduce the Circles model to churches in the conference. Two years ago the Carson City First UMC, in cooperation with Capital City Circles Initiative (CCCI), began to offer Circles orientations to churches and community organizations in the conference.  CCCI located in Carson City is one of the more mature Circles Programs in the country.  To date over fifty churches and organizations participated in a Carson City orientation.  Additionally, 24 churches along with numerous community organizations have had on-site consultations conducted by consultant Steve Shaw, sometimes accompanied by his wife Sable. The Shaws are long-time members of the CCCI and members of First UMC.
Each Circle consists of a family working to get out of poverty with three to four allies who befriend the family and support them on their journey to self- sufficiency. With the help of these allies, each family (Circle Leader) sets goals that are unique to its own needs and circumstances that will lead to developing the emotional, financial, intellectual and spiritual resources necessary for self-sufficiency and family stability.  Supporting families with money is expressly prohibited. 
Research shows, among other things, Circle Leaders who participated for 18 months or more showed a 48% increase in income, a 115% increase in assets, and a 36% decrease in government benefits.  The Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article by Phuong Ly, Summer 2012, “Personal Attention Reduces Poverty”.  The entire article is on the Circles model.
The Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Catholic churches rotate in providing the weekly dinner.  The CCCI would not exist without the support of the faith community.  Allies are recruited from all four churches and the community at large.  Over half of the allies have come from Carson City First UMC.
The Circles model is designed for the working poor, many from generational poverty.  Much of the theoretical base comes from Dr. Ruby Payne’s seminal work Framework for Understanding Poverty.   Four years ago there were twenty Circles programs in the country.  Today there are eighty-eight in the United States and Canada.
Circles Orientation and training will place on October 22 and 23 in Carson City, Nevada.
 For more information contact the Rev. Rob Jennings-Teats, (775) 882-1436,, or Steve Shaw, (775) 882-4087,