Restorative practice is a way of thinking and being, focused on creating safe spaces for real conversations that deepen relationships and build stronger and more connected communities. Restorative practice builds relational capacity.

Features of a restorative approach to congregational life include:

Creating a sense of belonging

Belonging to a community is all about relationships. Developing good relationships takes work. Good relationships can never be taken for granted. When the community says, “We welcome you. We value you. We want you to participate so we can know you as a part of us,” people will start to feel they belong. When someone feels they belong to a community, they are more likely to develop meaningful relationships, strengthening the life and ministry of the congregation as a whole.

Being intentional and explicit

Leadership makes the decision to implement a restorative approach to congregational life and the way people relate to each other. “We are going to do this.”

Leadership lets the community know what becoming a restorative community will involve. “This is what we are going to do.” A plan is developed and implemented.

Effective decision-making

Poor decision-making processes can create a lot of damage in a community. A restorative approach encourages Fair Process, a decision-making approach based on Engagement, Explanation, and Expectation Clarity.

Being WITH each other

To develop a restorative community people learn to work WITH each other, i.e., clear expectations and lines of accountability and the necessary support to meet expectations. Relationships are set up for success.

Relationships are never static. Circumstances change. What’s expected and the support needed for success must be reviewed and discussed as the life of the congregation develops and challenges arise.

Addressing conflict and repairing harm

When relationships break down those involved and those affected come together to make things better as much as possible. Through a restorative approach conflict is not avoided but experienced as a way to come a shared understanding of what happened, understand who has been affected by the incident and together find a way forward thereby building relational capacity.

Putting ideas and theory into practice

Specific practices, i.e., ways to be together, need to be understood and put into place to make restorative practice a lived experience. Practices support the vision of a restorative community. A restorative community develops its vision and understanding of what it means to be restorative through intentional and explicit practices.

Practices can be learned and implemented for, e.g., Councils, Boards, staff teams, committees, ministry groups, choirs, congregational gatherings, Sunday school, and youth groups as well as for meetings and gatherings with the wider community.