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Travel and the Power of Circles

“Life change happens in circles.”

My pastor loves this saying. He’s all about the business of changing lives, and he believes that happens more effectively in someone’s home on a weeknight than in the church sanctuary on a Sunday. At church, we sit in rows looking at the stage. But when we gather in homes, we sit in circles looking at each other.

Sunday morning services have been the focus of American churches for generations. But today’s savvy church leaders are discovering that Sunday services are just the entry point for people to get involved in their organizations because people are more likely to make significant decisions and take positive steps in their life based on interactions that take place in more intimate settings, not in large auditoriums.

My church in Lexington, Kentucky, subscribes to this outlook. Sunday morning services are an important part of what we do, and dozens of volunteers come together each week to make these services excellent, effective and welcoming. But we don’t do this just to fill seats on Sundays. Instead, we use Sundays as a catalyst to help people make connections with each other that can grow into deep, meaningful relationships.

The Sunday morning service is only one of many church-related gatherings that take place on a weekly basis. Like many modern churches, we have a large network of small groups that meet in homes, restaurants, coffee shops and other locations around the city at a variety of times. There’s a group for every interest — sports fans, golfers, literature lovers, young moms, etc. In those groups, people let down their guard and share what’s going on in their lives. Sunday morning is the most high-profile thing the church does, but these small groups are where the work of ministry takes place.

I have seen the life-changing power of gathering in circles firsthand, hosting a Financial Peace University group that helps people learn to manage their money, get out of debt and build solid financial futures. Though the lessons deal with finances, the discussion ends up touching on nearly every aspect of life, including marriage, career, family and faith. I have cheered along with class members who have reached major milestones in their financial journeys and watched as marriages grew stronger as couples began to communicate about their spending and their values.

If church is an important part of your life, I’m certain you have seen the life-changing impact of your faith community, too. And I hope you realize the potential for life change in your church’s travel ministry.

Like a small group, travel gets people out of pews and into circles. Traveling together gives people a chance to sit across from one another over a meal and talk about what’s going on in their lives. It allows them to bond over a common experience and enjoy some of the most beautiful places on earth — together.

You have a multitude of concerns every time you plan a church group trip. But while you’re busy keeping the bus running on time, don’t forget that the most important thing you can do during a trip is to tap into the power of your travel community and help people build relationships. A tour can be the highlight of someone’s year, but a friend can be the highlight of their life.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.