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Building the Body - learning activities for growing churches

An excellent compendium of exercises to stimulate church growth from the Church of Scotland Mission and Discipleship Council


Building the BodyBuilding the Body - learning activities for growing churches
By Steve Aisthorpe, Lesley Hamilton-Messer, David McCarthy, Phill Melstrom, Robbie Rawson
St. Andrew Press
ISBN 978 0 7152 0974 5
Reviewed by Martin M’Caw 

Congratulations to the Church of Scotland Mission and Discipleship Council for publishing an excellent compendium of exercises to stimulate church growth. It is not a book for starting on page one and reading through to the end, but selecting exercises that appear most pertinent for aspects of church life you want to grow.

The chapter Facilitation Made Easy is a succinct guide for using the exercises in a group setting. It covers essentials of good planning, possibly using outsiders which reduces the likelihood of insiders bringing their own agenda, establishing ground rules, encouraging the dynamics of discussion, and the importance of asking the right questions and identifying the wrong question. The instructions for each exercise include suggestions about the time and resources required. While experienced group leaders might feel ‘it’s easy-peasy – been there and done that’, it’s always good to remind oneself of the basics of group work.

The six key sections are Reflecting on whose we are, Knowing one another, Exploring our cultures, Understanding our communities, Learning from our experience and Discerning our future. These are essential for already growing churches. They are also good stimulants for churches stuck in the mud, or wondering what their future holds given the difficulties of declining members, challenging locations and the thought that growth can never be for them. Topics cover our individual spirituality and walk with God as well as corporate implications for church and community. I belong to a small village church that is very community minded and seeking its next part time minister. Here is an excellent tool for our moderator to encourage us and new minister to develop us when appointed. This is more than a versatile tool for church based ministers. It’s an essential resource for regional and church-life ministers within our Associations.

The exercises in Understanding Our Community section enable church groups to get to grips with the nature of their community, mapping what shapes it and identifying its strengths and weaknesses.

Discerning our Future is a challenging climax. As service providers and commercial organisations engage in strategic planning to develop their relevance and effectiveness, so must churches prepare to engage with their future because the idea that our ‘never-changing God’ desires a ‘never-changing church’ is ‘a myth - and an unhelpful one’. The exercises are to develop a shared vision and prevent a growing disconnection between a congregation and the community life around it. So let’s get on with Starting to Discern a Vision, Setting Priorities and Exploring What Motivates Us for Mission. The final exercise leads to discovering how God will lead his church forward with Small Steps for Meaningful Change


The Revd Dr. Martin M’Caw (Retired Baptist Minister. Wing Chaplain No.2 Welsh Wing RAF cadets.)

Baptist Times, 10/05/2019
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