The basic principle of Check-In is to build a foundation for the group’s interactions that is built on a common appreciation of everyone who is participating. How this happens varies with the size of the group, whether the interaction is happening face-to-face or online, and certain group preferences. But the principle remains .. for Peace and Power to be real in action, Check-In needs to happen!
Three components of Check-In
- Call your name
- Share anything that might affect your participation in the group
- Share your ideas and hopes for the focus of the group for this meeting
Calling your name:
In a small to medium sized meeting (up to about 20 people), the process of Peace and Power begins with everyone speaking briefly to connect with the group as an individual. Each person calls their name, even in a group of people who know each other well. This is a symbolic gesture that proclaims your presence in the group.
What might affect your participation:
Next briefly share anything about your personal life that might affect your ability to be fully present. If things are in great turmoil, or you have exciting news to share, or lots of things are happening that might distract you, just state briefly what it is and save the details for another time. The idea is to simply let everyone know if anything is happening for you outside the group that might affect how you are in the group. If you need help outside the group, let everyone know, but leave the details for later. If you need to leave the group early, let everyone know at the time of Check-In so that your early exit does not disrupt and is not a mysterious surprise.
Your ideas and hopes for this meeting:
Finally, share anything that you want the group to address during this time together. If you have an agenda item to share, let the group know. If you want to pick up on something that happened at the last meeting, or outside the group, describe that briefly.
Everyone who is not speaking listens and directs full attention to the person who is checking-in. Everyone indicates their connection to the person checking-in with applause, laughter, groans or brief comments that do not deflect the group from the process of checking-in. But refrain from picking up on a discussion item and getting side-tracked into dealing with issues before everyone has had a chance to check-in. Save these topics for discussion once check-In is complete so that the group can all participate in setting priorities for the time together without getting side-tracked.
The group, or individuals in the group do respond to any member who expresses an urgent personal need or distress. This needs to happen in any way that shows the group’s intention of support and nurturing for one another, but mindful at the same time of the needs of the group. For example, if during check-in someone reveals that they have a crisis at home, someone in the group might indicate that they will go with her after the meeting to help and support her during this time. If the need is urgent, they may need to leave the meeting to respond effectively.
If your group is “meeting” online, you can have everyone check in at a regular interval, such as the beginning of the week, by posting a Check-In message for the group. For a group that combines online interactions and face-to-face meetings (including Google Hangouts for example), you can decide when and how you will all check-in. But skipping “check-in” is not an option if you are seeking the ideal of Peace and Power.
If your group is very large, consider various ways to make sure that people in the group become acquainted with at least a few others in the group, and that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the group agenda. As you create approaches to do this, keep in mind the principle “every voice is valued, heard, and respected.” One way to accomplish this is to set aside a few minutes for people to “huddle” in small groups to share each person’s check-in, followed by time to have small groups “report” any agenda items that someone in their huddle mentioned.