On your own or in a collaborative group, fill in the Building Blocks Chart using the instructions in the Assessment Tools section of the Building Blocks of Faith toolkit.
After you have filled in the chart, you’ll notice that some of the boxes may have many things written in them. These are the areas that are being well served by your ministries. Rejoice and celebrate—and reflect on why these ministries are so well represented on your chart.
Then look at the boxes that are less full, or even empty. These are areas that perhaps need some attention. If any cell of the table is blank, check to see if that indeed represents a gap in your ministries or if there are people in your congregation who are being systematically excluded. Then ask if there are there ways in which you can build on your strengths to focus on these needs in your congregation.
When filling in the chart for our (the Keeleys’) church, we noticed a couple of things. First of all, we placed worship in the “I Have Hope” row for all the age groups. That caused us to ask whether that was really true. Do our worship services really communicate hope? Do they communicate hope for all ages? If that is, indeed, an important part of what we do in worship, then we have a renewed interest in making sure our worship is accessible to children as well as teens and adults. Second, a nearly empty cell in the “I Belong” box for young adults forced us to ask hard questions about what we are doing to make sure that this age group is included in the life of the church.
This chart is particularly helpful for churches at two levels. First, it can be used to evaluate programs. When you are considering a specific program that your church offers, it might be helpful to think about where that program fits in this chart. Service projects, for example, not only help people outside of your congregation but also bring hope to those who discover they are called and equipped for certain types of work.
This chart can also be used to consider ministry to individuals. In our congregation, the members are divided into six household groups, and an elder is assigned to each household to care specifically for the peoplein that group. If an elder filled out this chart, he or she could write the names of people in their household (instead of age groups) on the horizontal axis. Then the elder could fill in the table by asking, “How are the people in my care served by our church programs?” If the only program in your church that helps a person feel like they belong, for example, is one that they are not connected to, think about why they aren’t connected. Is there something in the way the program is structured that makes it difficult for them to participate? Does your congregation need additional ways to bring that sense of belonging to all members? To serve more people, do you need to change the way your programs are run?
As you look at your church, don’t forget the informal programs that might serve many of these purposes. In our church, a small prayer group meets very early in the morning each week. This is an important program in our church, but it, like most informal programs, can leave some people out. Because it is not a formal program of the church, the meetings are not announced to the congregation. Since it meets at the home of one of the members, some people might be reluctant to attend. Carefully assessing an informal program might present an opportunity to build a similar program that would include those who might be uncomfortable with the way the other group is set up.
Other leaders in the church can also use the Building Blocks. A Sunday school teacher can evaluate if the needs identified by all four Building Blocks are being met for her or his students. Does everyone feel welcome and feel like they belong? Does the time spent in class actually increase our knowledge of God and the Scriptures? How is hope made manifest in our classroom? Are my students hearing God’s call? Do they feel equipped to answer that call?
Looking at our church ministries through the lens of faith Building Blocks enables us to consider the needs of all the members of our congregation and to design opportunities to meet their needs so that faith flourishes. The Building Blocks concept also recognizes that people of all ages have similar needs and that people in different places in their life journey have their needs met in different ways.
Building faith is the foundation for all the ministries in our church. By examining what we need in order to help faith grow, we equip ourselves and all those in our church to better serve God, our local community, and the world.
—Adapted from the article “Building Blocks of Faith” by Laura Keeley and Robert J. Keeley, Lifelong Faith Journal, Vol. 8.1, Fall 2014 (www.LifelongFaith.com). Used with permission.