‘Grow Your Church’ board game taps into needs of local church

There’s a new game to play your way to church vitality.

The “Grow Your Church” board game is for both the boardroom and the dining room table, says the game’s description. In it, players move through a forest setting of deer, bees and acorns, landing on spaces that lead to prompts focused on building relationships within the group and guiding reflection related to the Marks of Faithful and Vital Local Churches.

The Marks were developed as part of a larger United Church of Christ project focused on creating a Manual on Church (MOC), and they were the inspiration for the game, which officially launched at General Synod 34 in Indianapolis.

The game emerged from the MOC working group as a way to make the Marks, one of the core parts of the MOC, more accessible and engaging, according to Erica Dollhopf, director of the Center for Analytics, Research Development, and Data (CARDD) and the game’s creator.

Equipping local ministry

The MOC working group was formed in response to a General Synod 32 resolution that set out a goal “to help congregations live into their covenantal responsibilities and privileges under the UCC Constitution.” It came together after an extensive call process to ensure there was a wide scope of UCC representation, said the Rev. Tracy Howe, team leader for Faith Education, Innovation and Formation (Faith INFO), who currently heads the group.

Two people stand on life-sized board game
The Rev. Ellis Arnold and the Rev. Lillian Daniel play a life-sized version of the Grow Your Church board game designed for larger gatherings like AM21 and General Synod.

“The new Manual on Church will be a foundational theological document and equip local churches, Associations and Conferences to work together to ensure vital and faithful ministry from church planting to closing and all of the milestones and challenges that come along the way,” she said.

Many across the UCC — Committees on Ministry, in particular — tend to be more familiar with the Manual on Ministry, which offers policy, practice and accountability for ministerial standing, said the Rev. Elizabeth Dilley, team leader for the Ministerial Excellence, Support & Authorization team (MESA).

“The MOC is broader and meant as resources for local churches in how they do their lives together, how they treat each other as local church,” she said, adding that it aims to allow consistency in policy and practice while also allowing flexibility for local practices.

The MOC is scheduled to be finalized by General Synod 35, taking place July 11-15, 2025 in Kansas City.

Rolling the dice

For now, people have the chance to first encounter the Marks through play.

“One thing I appreciate about the game is that there is no ‘winning’ or ‘losing,’ but rather it’s a game that invites reflection and engagement about the strengths and blessings of one’s local church,” said Dilley.

“One of the game design elements that I hope helps with the reflection on the Marks and also increases game replay is that players engage with them in one of six ways depending on what they’ve rolled,” said Dollhopf. “This process draws attention to different aspects of each Mark and creates a new experience every time the game is played.”

Dollhopf had designed several board games in the past and thought the structure of the Marks would translate well into a game. “The idea was met with enthusiasm, and I spent the next couple of months developing the board game concept and mechanics,” she said.

The working group tested and provided feedback on early prototypes, and Dollhopf worked with the Rev. Chris Davies, the previous Faith INFO team leader, and Taylor Russell, who previously served as CARDD research specialist, to finalize the game and collaborate with an artist and designer on game components. They had some fun with the design, incorporating their favorite flowers and an element inspired by Dollhopf’s dog, Bunny.

The game was beta tested by attendees at the Authorizing Ministry for the 21st Century in December 2022.

‘What local churches need’

“The MOC working group loves the game because it continually offers opportunity for further learning and feedback as to what local churches need and want, how to support one another and grow together,” said Howe. “These are all things we need as we continue to develop the Manual on Church.”

The game is intended for players ages 12 and up, and the amount of players is flexibly anywhere from one to “as many players as have patience to engage and listen,” the game instructions say.

Dollhopf hopes that the game can be both fun and meaningful, offering people “joy, curiosity, insight, connection and inspiration to shape the future of their local church.”

Grow Your Church is available now from UCC Resources.

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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