The SHAPE of you

We spend a lot of time doing stuff, and we could probably write big lists of what we do. But when we try to describe who we are, what makes us unique and what drives us to make choices and do stuff, that can be harder. Identity is a complex thing, something we are both born with and shaped by our experiences. Whether we are aware of it or not, our sense of identity also shapes our expectations of where we’ll fit in and have a role and purpose. This can make a huge difference to our confidence, stress levels and mental health in general.

My wife and I are leading a course group for Severn Vineyard Church intended to help people explore their identities. We’re doing this with a Christian world view, with people who are deciding to believe and follow Jesus, who has a lot to share about this.

The course is inspired and heavily influenced by S.H.A.P.E., a concept from Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life”, developed into a book and course by Erik Rees. They propose that every Christian has a unique combination of:

  • Spiritual gifts
  • Heart
  • Abilities
  • Personality and
  • Experiences

and that understanding more about these can help us grow in confidence and certainty about our roles in a bigger body of people and the world in general.

In “The SHAPE of you”, we’ve taken this core idea and come up with a new way to look at these aspects of our identity in a small group with three aims:

  1. For people to discover who God has shaped them to be, with a purpose and role in God’s kingdom.
  2. For people to play their part in helping others to discover their shape, purpose and kingdom role too.
  3. For people to be part of a supportive group putting faith into practice, learning from successes and failures.

The course has six 2-hour sessions, beginning with a look at who God says we are, as well as how and why Jesus people called people to follow him to find out more. The next few sessions explore our Heart and Hopes, Experiences, Abilities, Personality and Spiritual gifts. (This order felt like the best to help build a picture of our whole selves practically and authentically.) The sixth session is on how we work together like Jesus as a body. After some months to put this learning into practice, we finish with a reunion session to share how this has been going and what we want to do next.

Here’s the road map for the course. Below that are the resources we’ve produced to accompany the course. It’s all a work in progress! If you’re interested in joining in or discussing more about this, please get in touch.

Week 1 – Who am I, and who can I be in Christ?

Week 2 – What are my heart and hopes for?

Week 3 – Sharing experiences, finding abilities

Week 4 – Personalities, clashes and collaborations

Week 5 – Spiritual gifts working together

Week 6 – Becoming like Christ together

  • Session leader’s notes (PDF)
  • Gifts from Jesus summary – for participants to read about the “fivefold” ministry gifts which can let a body of believers work like Jesus when they work together, and estimate the kinds of gifting which they have (PDF)
  • Fivefold ministry quiz – a free online assessment which generates an estimate of fivefold ministry gifting (web link)

Summary sheet

  • The Shape of Me – for participants to record what they have learned throughout the course and want to share, e.g. with ministry leaders, when looking to communicate who they are and what they would like to offer in a church or ministry setting (PDF)