The Building Blocks of Faith Toolkit
Welcome to the Building Blocks of Faith toolkit! This resource collection will equip your church with tools that can enrich all aspects of your life and ministry together.
The Building Blocks of Faith, a concept developed by Laura Keeley and Robert J. Keeley, can help your church create an overarching framework for faith formation and assess how well each ministry is forming faith.
How to Use This Toolkit
We’ve collected dozens of great ideas for how the Building Blocks of Faith can shape your church’s ministry. Not all of them will work in your context, and that’s OK! Choose the ideas that work for you. Meanwhile, here’s how we suggest using this toolkit:
- First, browse through our helpful User’s Guide for a quick overview.
- Next, read through the section titled “What Are the Building Blocks of Faith?” to get a thorough understanding of what the Building Blocks are and how they work.
- After that, read the “Ways to Use the Building Blocks of Faith” section to get ideas for how to begin incorporating this helpful framework into your church’s life and ministry.
Many Thanks to the Building Blocks Cohort!
Faith Formation Ministries would like to thank the following churches who participated in our Building Blocks Cohort and shared what they learned and the materials they developed:
- Bethel CRC, Princeton, Minnesota
- Cornerstone CRC, Chilliwack, British Columbia
- Covenant CRC, Edmonton, Alberta
- Covenant CRC, Winnipeg, Manitoba
- Friendship Community CRC, Toronto, Ontario
- Hillcrest CRC, Denver, Colorado
- Immanuel CRC, Brampton, Ontario
- Immanuel CRC, Orange City, Iowa
- Mosaic House Community CRC, Edmonton, Alberta
- Sonlight CRC, Lynden, Washington
- Spring Lake CRC, Spring Lake, Michigan
- Trinity CRC, Abbotsford, British Columbia
- Woody Nook CRC, Lacombe, Alberta
What Are the Building Blocks of Faith?
The Building Blocks of Faith are one way of describing how Christ is formed in us. Developed by Laura Keeley and Robert Keeley, this model starts with four statements:
- I Belong
- I Know and Understand
- I Have Hope
- I Am Called and Equipped
When these four statements become increasingly true for a person, his or her faith grows. Here’s an overview of what each of those four statements means.
Building Blocks Overview
I belong to God and to God’s family, the church.
We all have a deep need to belong. That’s why the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism is about comfort and belonging:
“. . . I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”
We are people who belong to God and also to a community, the church. We are created with a longing to connect to God and with his people. We are also hardwired to live with and learn from other people. So God graciously places us with brothers and sisters in Christ. With them we worship and serve, share our joys and our sorrows, and learn about what it means to be the people of God.
I Know and Understand
I know and understand God’s salvation story, and I have a part to play in it.
In addition to knowing we belong, we need to know God’s story and our place in it. This provides our identity and shapes us on our journey.
We need to know how people like Abraham and Sarah, Moses and David, played important parts in God’s story even though they doubted and sinned. We need to see how the psalms can help us talk to God. We need to discover how the Gospels and Acts and the apostles’ letters can help us be the hands and feet of Jesus in our daily lives.
And most of all, we need to know how Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection give us life.
I Have Hope
I have confidence, through Christ, in all of God’s promises
Hope is critical to building a strong faith. Our hope in Christ is an expectation that is strong and confident, because it’s based on promises made to us by the Creator of the universe and on the promises fulfilled and strengthened in Jesus Christ.
Paul writes in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Having hope and trust allows us to live into the future with confidence that God is doing his work in the world and that we have a part in that work.
I Am Called and Equipped
I am called to work in God’s kingdom, and I am equipped to do that work.
Because we belong, because we know who God is and who we are in relationship with God, and because we have hope that we are part of God’s plan for renewing all things, we also believe that God calls us to a particular place in his kingdom.
In the church, we help each other look and listen for God’s call in our lives. We believe that God will prepare and equip us to fulfill our calling. We also equip each other through worship, church education, and fellowship.
For More About the Building Blocks
- Read Syd Hielema’s introduction to the Building Blocks of Faith.
- Read Laura Keeley and Robert J. Keeley’s Lifelong Faith journal article explaining the Building Blocks of Faith concept they developed.
- Download a one-page summary to use as a handout or poster.
- Call your Regional Catalyzer to talk about how the Building Blocks of Faith can shape your church’s ministry.
Ways to Use the Building Blocks of Faith
The Building Blocks of Faith can be used for strategizing and implementing a comprehensive ministry overview and for shepherding a stronger faith formation culture.
By addressing these four building blocks, your congregation can develop a framework to consider how you are meeting the ministry needs of your members of all ages.
Laura Keeley and Robert J. Keeley, who developed the Building Blocks of Faith concept, write:
Looking at our church ministries through the lens of the Building Blocks enables us to consider the needs of all the members of our congregation and design opportunities to meet their needs so that faith flourishes. . . . By examining what we need to grow faith, we equip ourselves and all those in our church to better serve God, our local community, and the world. (For more, read their article in the journal Lifelong Faith.)
The Building Blocks of Faith can be used as assessment tools to guide your church in examining your faith formation efforts, celebrating the strengths that already exist, and addressing areas that can be improved.
The Building Blocks Assessment
The Building Blocks Assessment tool is easy to understand and simple to administer. Depending on your congregation, the assessment can be given to the whole congregation or to a small group. Consider having people take the assessment during coffee time, after worship, during a potluck dinner, in youth groups or small groups, or at any other time that works for you.
Of course, the most accurate picture of your congregation emerges if a high percentage of members take the assessment. Good communication to your congregation or group will result in a higher number of forms being returned.
By administering the Building Blocks Assessment periodically, your congregation can determine whether the changes you made have been effective.
Before you get started, read How to Use the Building Blocks Assessment Tool.
The Building Blocks Chart
The Building Blocks Chart gives a helpful overview of how the programs in your church connect together to build faith. You’ll use it as a matrix to map where your church’s ministries fit the Building Blocks.
The chart is set up according to broad age categories. Feel free to place a ministry in more than one box. For example, Sunday school might belong both in the “I Know and Understand” and “I Belong” boxes for children.
Before you get started, read How to Use the Building Blocks Chart.
And here’s a photo of how one church turned the chart into a poster.
Help Is Available
Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers are available to coach you on the many ways to use the Building Blocks of Faith. They can meet with you in person or by phone or video, and their services are free of charge to CRC churches.
Starting with a phone call to your RC can quickly put you on the right track and save weeks of planning time. Find contact info for your Regional Catalyzer here.
Specific Ministry Applications
Pastors, Elders, Worship Planners
- Faith formation framework: The Building Blocks can serve as the basis of a framework that informs all of your church’s faith formation efforts.
- Worship planning: Plan each worship service to include elements of belonging, knowing, hoping, and equipping.
- Sermon series: Craft a four-week worship series that focuses on one of the Building Blocks of Faith each week using the points in Syd Hielema’s article Christ Formed in Us to Bless His World.
- Elder visits: The Building Blocks of Faith are a great tool to shape elder visits at your church. Click here to access a list of questions for elders to ask individuals and families about how your church is helping with their faith formation. Use this customizable brochure as part of your visit.
- Pre-profession classes: Use the Building Blocks as a framework to prepare people for profession of faith.
- Children’s ministry: Introduce the Building Blocks in your leader training. How can leaders help children belong, know, hope, and identify their calling?
- Youth ministry: Train youth ministry workers in the basics of faith formation by using the Building Blocks as a guide.
- Intergenerational ministry: Offer a series of four all-church events that explore each of the Building Blocks
- Small group ministry: Over four sessions, talk about each of the Building Blocks of Faith and how group members experience them in their lives and in their church family.
- Assessment and planning: Use the Building Blocks to assess how each of your church’s ministries is forming faith.
- Use the Building Blocks of Faith as guiding principles for family faith formation. Look for a Family Faith Formation toolkit coming soon from Faith Formation Ministries!
How CRC Churches Have Used the Building Blocks
Churches use the Building Blocks of Faith in many ways: as framework for all their faith formation efforts, as a guide for ministry planning, as the basis of a sermon series, and more. Here are some specific ideas:
- Cornerstone CRC in Chilliwack, BC, used the Building Blocks of faith to inform their new vision statement and logo as well as some strategic planning goals. Read a summary of their efforts here.
- The Building Blocks of Faith: Questions and Conversations provides questions to start conversations in a small group, a Bible study, or an intergenerational event.
- See how other congregations have used Building Blocks in these seven short videos.
- Hear in this video how Immanuel CRC in Brampton, ON worked with Building Blocks of Faith to be intentional in their faith formation.
This Network article shares the story of how members of a nearby group home found a place to belong at Chelwood CRC in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Read this Banner story to see how Covenant Life Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, showed students with cognitive challenges that they belong by forming an inclusive profession of faith group.
Here are some tools to help you explain the Building Blocks of Faith to others in your congregation.
Summaries and Presentations
- User’s guide: The user’s guide to the Building Blocks of Faith toolkit provides a good overview. You can view the user's guide here or visit Faith Alive's online catalog to order a free printed copy.
- One-page summary: Use this document as a handout or poster.
- Articles: Read Syd Hielema’s introduction to the Building Blocks of Faith. and Laura and Robert Keeley’s Lifelong Faith journal article further explaining the Building Blocks of Faith concept they developed.
- Audio presentation: Here’s a presentation by Laura Keeley and Robert Keeley that further explains the Building Blocks model.
- Prezi presentation: A Plan for Using the Building Blocks of Faith
- Congregation update: Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Princeton, MN sent this invitation to the congregation to report on how their Building Blocks initiative was touching various ministries.
Visual Symbols for the Building Blocks of Faith
- Symbols developed by Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Princeton, Minnesota:
- Check out the images for projection that Calvary CRC in Ottawa, ON used for their Building Block sermon series and meetings.
- Bulletin Cover
- Bulletin Cover #2
Here are some photos of the different ways churches have visually represented the Building Blocks.
Resources for Worship
Worship is a good place to introduce the Building Blocks to see how God’s grace has shaped and molded your congregation.
Here you will find a variety of resources to help with your worship planning, including sermon support, orders of worship, songs, and children’s sermons.
- Scripture passages that touch on the Building Blocks themes
- Community CRC in Kitchener, ON developed this Lenten Series called "Living Our Baptism" that works well with the Building blocks themes.
- Luke 24: Emmaus Road
- Genesis 3: The Lord’s Response to the Fall
- Ezekiel (a four-part series on faith formation)
- Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1 (a four-part series)
- Isaiah 43: "Do Not Be Afraid": I Belong
Worship Service Outlines
- I Belong to God
- I Know and Understand: Saved by Grace
- I Know and Understand: Guided on Our Journey
- I Have Hope: Jehoshaphat Prays
- I Am Called and Equipped: Moses, Joshua, David, and Me
Click here for a list of songs that correspond with the Building Blocks themes.
- Question of the Week: Invite people by email or during worship to respond in one sentence to a "Building Blocks of Faith Question of the Week." Gather the responses to use in a word cloud or make a list that can be part of your newsletter, projection or bulletin.
- Nametag Sunday: Create a feeling of belonging by having a Nametag Sunday once a month. Nametags help everyone to learn each other's names. At Covenant CRC in Sioux Center, IA the fourth to sixth graders created custom nametags for everyone in the church. They met as a group to talk about each person and their interests, and then they customized the nametags accordingly. They also prayed for each person as they made their nametag. The artist also signed the back of the nametag. After worship the congregation was encouraged to find the artist of their nametag, thank them, and get to know each other better.
Resources for Church Leaders
Use "The Building Blocks of Faith: Questions and Conversations" with the leaders of your congregation—elders, deacons, youth group, Gems, Cadets, Sunday School, etc.
Children’s Ministry Resources
The Building Blocks themes can be incorporated in Advent. Check out these four learning stations for children.
- Try these four lessons designed for five- to ten-year-old children in your girls’ or boys’ weeknight programming.
- Check out Mentoring a Child’s Faith for tips on how to use the Building Blocks in conversation with children who desire to publicly profess their faith.
Youth Ministry Resources
Today's teens often feel anxious and discouraged. It may be time to start a conversation in your youth group about Christian hope. For background, read these two excellent articles from the Alban Institute: Hope Takes Hard Work and What Is Responsible Hope?
- Use or adapt the Mentoring Journal for Middle and High School Relationships developed by First CRC of Detroit to guide a mentoring relationship with a young person.
- The Building Blocks of Faith are a great tool to shape elder visits at your church. Click here to access a list of questions for elders to ask individuals and families about how your church is helping with their faith formation. Use this customizable brochure as part of your visit.
Adult Ed and Small Group Resources
- Covenant CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa organized an adult Sunday school class on the Building Blocks of Faith. The class was led by a different church elder each Sunday. Elder Melissa Bailey wrote this outline on the Building Block of hope, and has given permission for others to use it.
- Introduce the Building Blocks of Faith with this Discussion Guide for Small Groups
- Interview each other using the questions from "The Building Block of Faith: Questions and Conversations."
Staff and Volunteer Resources
- The Building Blocks can help shape the support we give our volunteers. Read more about Volunteer Care that Supports Faith Formation and Discipleship by Lesli van Milligen.
- In the body of Christ, everyone belongs. Check out these role-based tips from CLC Network that share how people in many different types of ministry roles can welcome and enfold people with disabilities.
These devotions can be used to either launch or give momentum to the Building Blocks initiatives in your congregation. They are also useful as opening devotions in your faith formation team meetings or at church council meetings to help encourage and provide a picture of how the Building Blocks shape church culture.
- I Belong: The Gift of a Teddy Bear
- I Know and Understand: On a Wintry Night
- I Have Hope: Burning Hearts
- I Am Called and Equipped: Through Twists and Turns
- I Have Hope: “Remembering Our Way,” a blog post by Brian Keepers
- Advent Longings
- Psalm 34
Families in your congregation can use these Building Blocks devotions at home:
- I Belong: Even Before You Were Born
- I Belong: “Your God Is My God”
- I Belong: Four Devotions on Psalm 23
- I Know and Understand: Four Devotions on Psalm 1
- I Have Hope: God’s Promises
- I Am Called and Equipped: “Anointing Oil”
- Read this blog post for a summary of how some churches in a project sponsored by Vibrant Faith are creating a culture of calling.
- Is your congregation friendly but not hospitable? In the article Belonging, Chris Schoon asks how people know that they belong to the congregation.
- Marva Dawn suggests that being a community of people who belong is more than emotion. It is an act of will. Read more in the article Body Building: Worship that Develops Strong Community.
- In The Life Changing Impact of Belonging, Karen DeBoer states that "Shaping a culture in which all ages belong is about creating a community in which relationships are formed as faith is nurtured." The Intergenerational Church Toolkit is a great resource for more ideas.
- Teens especially need hope. Read more in "One Crucial Gift We Must Give to Teens" by Tim Elmore
- In Dangerous Hope, Brian Keeper describes hope as "dangerous because if testifies to a God who reverses the order of things and turns the world upside down."
- Make sure you read the comments for the blog post "What Bible Verse Gives You Hope for 2017?" Consider asking your congregation a similar question and share the responses.
- Our hope for today is based on the words of Scripture. Read more in the article Getting to the Balcony.