Fit4Life church training course

We are delighted to be the UK distributors of a new resource for churches, developed by a former member of the Network, Anne Wilkinson-Hayes, and her colleagues in Australia. Available in CD-ROM format, this training course (which draws gratefully on Mennonite material) is designed to help churches behave well and develop healthy practices.

The course contains numerous practical exercises for group work and covers:

• Church health and self-awareness

• Healthy communication

• Handling differences in healthy ways

• Healthy decision-making

• Clarifying role expectations

• Covenanting for health

For further details of Fit4Life see the article by Anne Wilkinson-Hayes on this website. You can also view two sample exercises from the course below.

Copies of the course are available for £10.00 from the Network. You can order one one using the contact form which can be found at the bottom of the toolbar on the right-hand side of the page, or you can write to us at PO Box 70108, London N12 7DW.

Church Health, Self-awareness and the Bible


This exercise would be ideal in groups of about 6 people.

Aim: To help people to discover how self-awareness is a Biblical ideal and necessary for our growth toward healthier church life.
To invite people to explore how congregational awareness and openness to the truth may be developed.

Time: There are 2 parts to this exercise:
Reading the 4 stories and answering questions – 20 minutes
Reading Bible passages and reflecting on four questions – 30 minutes.

You will need: A copy of the handout below (p15) and some Bibles in each group.

Self-awareness is an important foundation for good health:

• A person is unlikely to go to the doctor for medical care unless they become aware that they are unwell.
• A person is unlikely to take up a fitness program, unless they become aware that their lack of fitness is impeding what they want for their life.
• A person is unlikely to go on a more healthy diet, unless they become aware that their present diet is likely to be causing them harm.

It is the same in the church. The first step to becoming healthier is to face the truth that there may be some aspects of our way of being and ministering together that are in fact weighing us down, and damaging our witness to the Gospel of Jesus.

In fact, when we think about it, we have all probably seen many examples of poor self-awareness in the church, and the troubled results.


You may like to ponder the following stories. Each person may read them quietly or you may take turns reading the stories out loud.

Jeremy was a young Christian, and as eager as they come. At a Young Adults Bible Study, he had filled out a questionnaire on spiritual gifts and concluded that he had the gift of prophecy. So, he would often interrupt Bible Study groups or worship services or use personal conversation in order to “deliver a word from the Lord”. It was all done with a great sense of zeal, but it became increasingly obvious that Jeremy’s prophesies were actually an opportunity for him to tell long and detailed stories about his own life. He was actually crying out for people to notice him and take an interest in him, but nobody quite knew how to raise the issue with him. So, bit-by-bit, people started to feel so uncomfortable that they stopped inviting him to functions and started to ignore him. Jeremy’s lack of self-awareness and the inability of his church to help him started to become a cause of ill health for the whole church.

Jane was quiet. She was regular at worship and at church meetings, but never spoke up, never said anything. Yet she developed some wonderful relationships with some of the children in the church. This lead to her becoming a helper at Sunday School and a regular presence in the church’s playgroup ministry. Jane was a revelation. Not only did the children love her, but she also had a great way of responding to their questions about God. She began to get to know their parents, and when families were going through a rough time, she was the first to turn up with a casserole and an offer to pray for them. Families began to come to church because of Jane! However, when the children and families’ pastor approached Jane to join his ministry planning group each week, Jane took flight. She felt she had nothing to offer, and couldn’t bear the prospect of being embarrassed and humiliated in this way. She began to withdraw from Sunday School and playgroup. Jane’s lack of awareness of her gift eventually deprived the church of a capacity it sorely needed.

The Open Hearted Baptist Church savoured its reputation as a welcoming church. Indeed, there was always someone at the front door whose ministry it was to greet them, and get them to sign the visitors’ book. A well-presented letter would arrive in their letterbox on the following Tuesday, asking that they come again. At the August pastoral care group meeting, a letter from James and Jessica was read out to responses of deep concern. They said they had attended the church for 2 months, but felt unwanted. They said that they had never got past the superficial “lovely to see you again” conversations. They had stood alone with their coffee after the service most Sundays. Nobody had invited them to their homes or to any of the church’s home groups. They actually had wanted to help with the church’s recent fete, but they hadn’t been able to find out whom to speak to. They concluded that the church did not actually want new people and was happy to remain as it was. The Pastoral Care group prayed for James and Jessica, asking God to minister to whatever had made them so angry, and the church continued to lack a healthy self-awareness of what it was actually doing.

Paula was a gifted woman: witty, intelligent, hospitable, articulate and with brilliant organisational skills. She had “leader” written all over her, and quickly became the church’s most significant organiser. However, it was not all smooth sailing. She was often quite quick to criticise the contributions of other people, especially the pastor, whose pastoral style she didn’t seem to care for. She would often call on him to be more decisive, and then oppose him when he was. She became the chairperson of church meetings, and was brilliant, except that she controlled agendas so tightly that nobody much spoke up about anything. She would cancel meetings if she couldn’t be there personally. Inevitably, a move arose to have her thrown out of her role. She was devastated. All she had ever wanted, she said, was to love her Lord and serve the church. She fought the move and it wasn’t long before the whole church was dividing into bitter factions. Paula’s lack of self-awareness began to destroy the church she loved.

Part 1

1. What are your reflections on these stories?

2. Do you think that these are common themes or experiences in churches?

3. Can you think of instances in your own experience where a lack of self-awareness prevents a church from greater health and effectiveness in ministry?

4. Which story impacts you the most? What does this say about your own self-awareness?

Part 2

The Bible does not explicitly command us to be self-aware, but the need for us to face the truth about ourselves in relation to God, our relationships with one another and the implications of our behaviour is a constant theme:

• In Genesis 32:22-31, Jacob’s wrestling with a shadowy adversary is all about his need to face the truth about who he is so that God may transform him.
• 1 Corinthians13:12 looks forward to the time when our knowledge of ourselves in relation to God is as clear as God’s knowledge of us.
• Romans 12:3 calls us to think realistically of ourselves from the perspective of what God thinks is important.
• Many of Jesus’ stories are about inviting people to face the truth about themselves:
Mark 10:17-23: the rich young man
John 4: 1-42: the Samaritan woman at the well
Luke 7: 36-50: Jesus’ dinner with Simon the Pharisee
• The letters to the churches in Revelation hold a mirror to the churches so that they can see their truth in relationship with God.
• James 1:22-25 tells us that obeying the word of God is like looking in the mirror, taking note of the picture it shows us and then living in the light of what we have seen.

This suggests some important questions for our churches:

1. How can we grow in our commitment to know and love the truth – even the truth that is difficult for us to face?

2. How can we graciously invite and receive feedback from others about ourselves?

3. How can we help others to receive the truth in a caring environment?

4. How can we become a church of openness, trust and honesty?

Role Play – Self-awareness in Groups

Aim: To help us begin to recognise our own agendas and ways of working when we come together.

Time: 60 minutes.

You will need: Enough copies of the roles for each person to have one each. Copy the sheets and cut up into strips. The roles are on pages 22-23. Each person needs an envelope containing a role and a name badge/sticky label, with Christian names only (i.e. just Peter not Peter Prophet). A way of communicating the debrief/discussion questions – put onto an overhead projector slide/PowerPoint/slips of paper.

Instructions for Leader to read out:

1. Divide into groups of 6.

2. Each group is being given 6 envelopes, each containing one role and name tag. These are not to be opened yet.

3. The following is the scenario you are in:

There has been discontent with the current morning service. The 10 am service is fairly full, but there has been a feeling that trying to cater well for the children and young people is hard to do at the same time as providing meaningful reflective worship for older people. It seems as if trying to do something for everyone is ending up pleasing no one. The leadership team has proposed a move from one 10am service to two different styles:
9.30 Reflective meditative service
11.00 Family worship
You are a working group, made up of people representing different interest groups in the church. Your aim is to discuss the proposal and reach a common mind.

4. You may now distribute and open your envelope.

5. Read your role through and put on your badge.

6. Engage in a debate with other members of your group in the style suggested by your role. You each have a desired outcome, but try to engage creatively with the other members.

7. You have 20 minutes to discuss the issues.
Allow discussion to commence, and keep track of the time. At the end of the discussion put the following questions on the overhead projector, or hand around slips with the questions.

Debrief: (remove badges)

• Reveal character profiles to each other and talk about how the discussion went. Was it constructive? Why/Why not?
• People often come to meetings with their own agendas – how do we work creatively and sensitively with this?
• If the aim is to discern the mind of Christ when we come together, how do we help one another to put aside our own agendas?
• Split into pairs and talk with each other about our own tendencies in discussions. Which character do we most identify with?

Roles for Self-awareness in Groups Role Play

Peter Prophet
You are the youth leader. You had a dream recently in which you felt sure that God was speaking directly to you. In the dream you were underwater and saw a shoal of beautiful coloured fish. You admired their harmony – the way they moved as a group, and stayed together even when negotiating obstacles and searching for food. But suddenly a big ugly shark came and divided the shoal into two groups. The fish seemed to panic and scatter in different directions. All harmony was lost. You are convinced that God is saying that we need to stay together as one congregation in the mornings. Even though your personal preference is for a more youth-oriented service
– God has spoken!

Dolores Deacon
You will chair the meeting. You have served many years on the leadership team – in your opinion it is a good group that has grown in spiritual maturity over the years. You feel that only the leaders really understand ‘the pulse’ of the church, and the direction that God wants. The body of the church is full of barely committed people, new Christians and people who are, frankly, just passengers. God has called the leaders to their role, and their views are really the only ones to be truly ‘in tune’. To question the leaders is to question God’s judgment in calling them. You believe that God has led the leadership to this model of two services as a way of enabling a very diverse congregation to grow in their faith and service.

Worried Win
You have been at the church all your life and have a strong interest in trying to keep things as they were in the ‘glory days’ of the church. You are very fearful of change since it seems to dishonour the life and service of your dear friends in the past that gave everything for this church. You feel it important to point out all the problems and difficulties that others might overlook. People today are too quick to overturn the long-established, tested and God-honouring traditions of the past. If you can’t defeat change, you still feel a sense of triumph if you can delay or defer decisions. Obviously the two service model is an affront, and unworkable.

Wounded Walter
Life has not been kind to you. You cannot cope with any more failure, so it is very important that your view prevail. You need to be seen as a valued and essential person. You tend to do this by a self-effacing kind of manipulation. You try to make people feel sorry for you and play the victim role. You actually want a quieter service, because you can’t stand the noise and distraction the children make, but you would never admit this openly or say what you really want. Rather you find ways to make people want to protect you from hurt. You take everything very personally, and if you sense that things are not going your way, you may resort to throwing a tantrum.

Hen-pecked Harry
Your wife has told you to vote against the proposed division of the congregation. She says she has canvassed the opinions of all key people, and at least a third of the congregation will leave (including some significant givers) if the proposed split goes ahead. She wouldn’t dream of speaking out, but you would be in big trouble at home if you let this one get through! You are not sure what you think really – you would have liked to have listened to all the different views, but you dare not cross ‘she who must be obeyed’.

Loaded Lucille
You have been involved in the church some 10 years now. You found great comfort in the fellowship at the time of the death of your dear Freddie, and you have been very generous with the considerable fortune he left you. You were able to fast-forward the sanctuary renovation program, and you have always ensured that the pastors and their families got a decent holiday each year. You also give a good deal of your time to the church – supporting other widows, and running endless coffee mornings. You have come to expect that people take you seriously. After all, the more significant stakeholders should surely have a greater say in what happens in church. You think that a more focused approach to worship will be good for people and are supportive of the proposal.