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This article is part of The Building Blocks of Faith Toolkit—a collection of resources for strengthening faith formation in your congregation and at home, brought to you by Faith Formation Ministries.


In 2009, authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert wrote When Helping Hurts. Their book raised awareness that sometimes a congregation’s approach to service and poverty alleviation can hurt the people they are serving. The help being offered by well-meaning congregations can create an “us and them” dynamic that marginalizes people rather than inviting them into a partnership. The authors pointed out that ministry “to” and “for” others can also create dependency instead of restoration.  

The Building Blocks of Faith describe four spiritual needs everyone has that are met in Christ:

  • The need to belong

  • The need to know God and God’s story

  • The need to have hope

  • The need to be called and equipped

Addressing these needs helps faith to flourish in people of all ages. Faith Formation Ministries team member Martin Contant reflects on how to re-envision a congregation’s understanding of neighborhood engagement through the the lenses of the Building Blocks of Faith:

I am wondering how the church can change its language and posture of "outreach" as something we do. How might focusing on building natural relationships in which we love our neighbors (Belonging) help us get away from project-driven evangelism efforts? The Building Blocks of Faith have this holistic, loving-God-and-neighbor dynamic built in. Perhaps a different posture toward outreach would help make it more faith formative and holistic.

The Building Blocks of Faith recognize that the Creator of the Universe made all of us with the need to belong, to know God and God’s story, to have hope, and to live into our God-given calling, whether we are 3, 43, or 103 AND whether we acknowledge the Lord of Creation as our Lord and Savior or are still seeking him.  

When we desire to minister with our community, we must acknowledge that all people share the same needs—and these needs are met in Jesus Christ through God’s grace. This is where the “us and them” dynamic begins to break down and where our outreach moves from something we do to or for the neighborhood to something we do with the neighborhood, so that outreach becomes faith-formative and holistic. This is also where we can move from seeing people within the community as “projects” to embracing them as friends on a shared journey of faith.

Tim Soerens’ book Everywhere You Look will be encouraging as you look for ways to partner with what the Holy Spirit is already doing in your neighborhood. Also, When Helping Hurts has been updated and now includes a supplementary small group guide.

Starting with our mutual need for God invites everyone to journey together. The Building Blocks of Faith can act as useful lenses for congregations when they consider how to support their neighborhoods in becoming places of thriving. By using the Building Blocks to assess community engagement invites those around them into belonging, knowledge, hope, and calling, your church can better reach out to your neighbors in the love of Christ. 

Here are some specific thoughts on how looking through the lens of each Building Block can shape and inform our outreach and neighborhood engagement.


Want to learn more? We’ve gathered a wealth of resources in our free Building Blocks of Faith toolkit.


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