Sit at a street café or in an airport departure lounge for any length of time and you’ll quickly be reminded that people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes!

And so it is when it comes to the way we are made spiritually. God shapes each of us uniquely. But though a glance in the mirror will give us an accurate impression of our physical shape, discerning how God has shaped us inwardly isn’t so straightforward.

Understanding our shape is an important starting point but for those in ministry, helping others to do so is vitally important – at least if we want to see people thriving and serving effectively.


To this end, it’s well worth considering the S.H.A.P.E course.

S.H.A.P.E. is much more than an exercise in introspection. As indicated above, it’s focussed on assisting people to serve in ways that will be fulfilling for them and, consequently, helpful for the building up of God’s people (Ephesians 4:11-13.) S.H.A.P.E. is built on the premise that getting the right people in the right roles is critical and shouldn’t be left to chance.

The course runs over several sessions with participants having the opportunity to consider their own makeup with each of the characteristics denoted by the letters in S.H.A.P.E. These are as follows:

S – spiritual gifts

H – heart

A – abilities

P – personality

E – experience

There’s no space here to fully unpack each category. For that, head to:

But in brief, here’s what’s meant.

Whether they have yet been recognised or not, every believer has spiritual gifts. These differ from ‘natural abilities’ and, as the term makes clear, are gifted to us by the Holy Spirit. We don’t choose which ones we’d like and they are for the building up of the Body rather than our gratification.

Heart is the biblical term for what we refer to as passion. What is a person passionate about? What gets them out of bed in the morning? Maybe it’s working for justice or serving people in need. We operate best when our heart is in it.

Our abilities are those things which we were born with and which we are good at. These come from God too and so are not to be overlooked. A person needs to take what they’re good at and use it to serve and glorify God.

P is for personality – the kind of person we are, extrovert or introvert etc. Our personality will influence how we best use our spiritual gifts and abilities and in what settings.

Every person has their own story, built around the experiences they’ve had in life. We’ve each been shaped by these. Has someone, for example, experienced post-natal depression? Perhaps that person can use that difficult experience to minister to others who find themselves in a similar place.

Put all of these things together and you arrive at SHAPE. As you minister to your people, helping individuals discover their unique shape will be among the most valuable things you do.


Having used the course in a congregational setting on numerous occasions, I can report that it has helped many people better understand their unique shape and that that understanding was crucial in terms of people finding their way into roles and ministries that best suited them. We all know that trying to fit square pegs into round holes is an eminently frustrating business, and it’s no less so for those who find themselves serving in ill-fitting roles.

Let’s get our people in S.H.A.P.E. for ministry and ready for mission.


Very Rev Dr Martin Fair

Pathways to Ministry Manager