In a general sense, restorative justice focuses on building and strengthening relationships in a community. Fundamentally, it's about how people create communities that are connected, where people are open with one another, where there's a sense of trust and relationship. It's a way of doing justice that focuses on the relationships of a situation. It leads to healthier, more effective communities.
The restorative piece comes into play when harm is done by or to a community member. How do we bring people together to repair that harm in ways that are safe, and enable people to move on? The focus is on building on strong values and strengthening relationships at all levels. It's not soft or easy. It holds people accountable and (hopefully) leads in the end to an outcome that's bigger than just retribution or punishment.
As churches, we often don't focus enough on fostering honest community relationships. We need to understand the ways that our actions affect one another, but many ministries do not know how to encourage that understanding. It just happens, or it doesn't.
Leadership needs to intentionally foster dialogue and help people build relationships. The relationship level is the place to deal with conflict and harm in churches. We need to invite people back into a notion of the community as a circle.