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Chelmsford Diocese encourages church members to take advantage of a course called “Classic SHAPE” and discover how God may be calling them into different forms of ministry.; and whole churches can discover their vocation through "Church SHAPE"

SHAPE aims to enable church members to understand the unique SHAPE God has made them, the gifts he has given them and how he might want to use them. 

A history of SHAPE

In the late 1980s, St Barnabas Church, Kensington developed a tool they called ‘Bodyworks’. When in 1992 they were visited by Andy Griffiths, then the Director of Studies of an English-medium theological college in Budapest in Hungary, they gave him Bodyworks on a CD-Rom, which he then used in Central Europe under the name ‘Shape’. Back in the UK, Canon Amiel Osmaston (Ministry Development Officer for the Anglican Diocese of Carlisle) formed the course into the individual vocation tool we are now calling ‘Classic SHAPE’, which was then revised in 2013 by Phil Ritchie, Elizabeth Jordan and others from the Diocese of Chelmsford. For their kind permission to use some parts of their unpublished writings in Classic SHAPE, we want to thank:

  • Revd. David Male, who created a SHAPE course for his Anglican church in Huddersfield
  • Revd. Tim Barlow and Revd. Tom Parker, whose course “Know your Spiritual Gift” at St. Chad’s , Romiley, provided much of the material for Handout 4B on Spiritual gifts.
  • Revd. John Lees, a careers consultant, who has contributed significantly to the questionnaires. (Website: www.johnleescareers.com).

Finally, custodianship of the course passed to the Diocese of Chelmsford, where a new version, ‘Church SHAPE’ was developed by Andy Griffiths, now on staff in Chelmsford, in keeping with the Diocese’s approach to discernment and formation. At no point has SHAPE ever been charged for in any way, and the intention is that it will always remain a free resource. The materials have deliberately not been copyrighted, so that they can be used more flexibly and cheaply, and so that each church can adapt them to suit its own context and needs.


The SHAPE cartoon on the Cover page is used here by permission of the Diocese of Chelmsford, which holds the copyright. If you use the cartoon please include the following credit:  Cartoon by Dave Walker / www.CartoonChurch.com

Classic SHAPE

The sessions involve looking at your:

       Spiritual Gifts (God’s unique gifts to you)

    Heart’s Desire (what motivates and excites you; what you love to do)

Abilities (your talents, knowledge and skills)

    Personality (your character, personal qualities and strengths)

       Experience (your life experiences and what you’ve gained from them)

Ideally, most of the congregation would do Classic SHAPE (e.g. over a period of 2 years, though this depends on how many leaders you have available and how large the congregation is). After this, it should be run regularly to draw in recent church members, newly confirmed adults etc. It consists of five 2-hour sessions.

Classic SHAPE could also be done as a slightly extended Advent or Lent course. The material could be used in an existing home group if it is not too large, though experience has shown that this does not work as well as a new / specially created group. Each group should have two leaders and six to eight members.

The materials give full instructions for the group leaders, so that anyone with experience of group leadership would be able to lead.

After the course ends, each group member has a private Individual Review session with the Vicar / Parish Priest / Minister (and / or one of the group leaders), in order to explore what has been discovered, suggest possible areas of ministry, and make practical arrangements for action. 

This is essential, as it can be very frustrating to discover one’s gifts and then to be unable to find ways of using them! Of course people need to be helped to see ways of using their gifts in all areas of their lives, not just in a church context, and in ways appropriate for their particular SHAPE.

Classic SHAPE aims to create an informal, accepting and relaxed atmosphere, where people feel safe to share things at a personal level. There will be some input from the leaders on the topics, and an exploration of Biblical teaching. There will also be practical exercises, discussion and application to each person’s life situation, and prayer together. At the end of each session, a practical personal reflection exercise or questionnaire is given out, which will take about one hour to do.

The following session will begin by discussing and applying the results of it. By the end of the course, each person will have compiled a profile of their SHAPE for ministry.

The Content of Classic SHAPE

Draft content for a publicity leaflet

Cover Page

Notes on Practicalities of running SHAPE

Session 1:

Introduces the aims and outlines of Classic SHAPE; establishes an atmosphere of openness and trust; explores Biblical material on gifts, vocation, every member ministry and our role in building God’s church and Kingdom on earth.

Leaders' Notes Session 1

Session 1 Handout 1A

Session 1 Handout 1B

Session 1 Personal Reflection

Session 1 Members Notes

Session 2 (Experience and Personality):

Leaders' Notes Session 2

Session 2 Handout 2A

Session 2 Handout 2B

Session 2 Handout 2C

Session 2 Members Notes

Session 3 (Abilities and Heart’s Desire):

Leaders' Notes Session 3

Session 3 Handout 3A

Session 3 Handout 3B

Session 3 Handout 3C

Session 3 Personal Reflection on Spiritual Gifts

There is no members' notes for this session

Session 4 (Spiritual Gifts):

Leaders' Notes Session 4

Session 4 Members' Notes

Session 4 Personal Reflections

Session 5

Classic SHAPE concludes by looking at each person’s profile and its implications, encouraging and praying for each other’s ministries.

Leaders' Notes Session 5

Session 5 Members' Notes


Church SHAPE

Church SHAPE starts from the assumptions that

* “God always provides the resources required for the mission of the church to continue”.

* Churches, as well as individuals, have vocations – “Our approach is to enable and empower parishes and worshipping communities to discern how they are to be God’s people in their own very different local contexts and as part of one diocesan family”.

* This vocation is best discerned relationally through conversations – “A willingness to work well with others in a spirit of open honesty and transparency and with appropriate realism and accountability” (quotations from “Travelling Well Together”)

In the Diocese of Chelmsford, we sometimes speak about what the 20th century Christian leader John Stott called “Triple Listening” – listening to God, listening to the wider community, and listening to the congregation. Church SHAPE focusses on the third of these types of listening – listening to one another. It’s one of the keys to finding our way forward. It might be ideal for churches in vacancy looking to write a profile, for incumbents looking to understand a new benefice, or for a Lent or Advent group.

Session 1: Having good conversations in churches

Leaders' Notes

Members' Handout

Personal Reflection after Session 1

Session 2: Experience and Personality

Leaders' Notes

Personal Reflection after Session 2

Session 3: Abilities and Heart's Desire

Leaders' Notes

Handout 3PR Your Spiritual Gifts

In between sessions 3 and 4, participants are asked to fill in the anonymous questionnaire 3PR, and find two other church members to fill it in anonymously as well about themselves 

Session 4: Spiritual Gifts

Leaders' Notes

At the end of Church SHAPE the group leaders will be able to report to the PCC some important data about the stories, passions, gifts and vocation of the church(es).


For more information or to report anything wrong with this page please contact Andy Griffiths




For more information or to report anything wrong with this page please contact Andy Griffiths