NOTE: The Building Blocks of Faith describe four spiritual needs everyone has that are met in Christ. Addressing these needs helps faith to flourish in people of all ages. For more in this series, see How the Building Blocks of Faith Can Shape Your Outreach Ministry and Neighborhood Engagement.
Of the four Building Blocks of Faith, Knowing and Understanding is probably the one that congregations lean into heavily without labeling it as such. We love God’s Word, and we want to tell God’s story. So we unleash Sunday school busses to bring children to Sunday morning programming; we harness tons of volunteers to put on a week of VBS; and we gather cooks, discussion leaders, and hospitality folks to help us run Alpha for 11 weeks. In other words, we are not in want of programming ideas and opportunities when it comes to inviting our neighbors to know God, hear God’s story, and find their place in it.
But here are three questions we should be asking when we look at how we share God’s story in our outreach and community engagement efforts:
How can we include an invitation to know God and God’s story in the background of all of our community engagement so that we are not mistaken for “just another social agency”? This is a call to prepare your volunteers to be ready with a compelling story as to why they are engaged in the work they are doing. Help them answer the question of how their faith is integral to their life. Help them practice sharing the good news in winsome yet respectful ways.
How do we invite discussion, wondering, and questions? In other words, how are we inviting dialogue rather than just broadcasting a message—no matter how good it is—that people can ignore once the event is over? The beauty of Alpha is that it invites questions. How can our VBS and GEMS or Cadet Sundays invite faith exploration as well? It would be useful to make available a “map” of different avenues for exploration offered by your congregation after every community engagement event.
How can we ensure that the themes of our events don’t get in the way of the gospel message? In one church where fun was highly valued, the ministry leaders invested in the biggest, best bouncy houses available. Playing in them was the reward given to kids who sat quietly through the Sunday-morning lesson. The bouncy houses were in each kid’s sightline and were the “lead story” when parents asked for a debrief of the morning’s experience. Not an ideal situation! So how are we inviting people into God’s story, trusting that God’s Word is powerful and compelling?
In another setting, a church used their Backyard Bible Club ministry to set up a village from Jesus’ time and invite children to learn the stories of Jesus' life—and then the children participated as docents for their parents. That’s a kind of “knowing” experience that really sticks!
Want to learn more? We’ve gathered a wealth of resources in our free Building Blocks of Faith toolkit.