Surviving Isn’t Thriving

There’s no question that our post-pandemic church life is different… We have shifted yet again, and not toward consistent church attendance or support of faith-formation programs for children.  

While we need to take a deep dive into our current cultural reality, the research work fueling our Thriving Congregations grant has reminded our Vibrant Faith team of an important truth. Yes, as we work to equip parents to nurture the faith of their children we encounter daunting challenges—but that’s why it’s important to remember…

Life Happens. But That Doesn’t Need to Derail Us.  

We know the trends influencing all 27 of the churches in our Thriving Congregations project. They’ve experienced the same upending shifts you have.  Many of them aren’t sure about the future, or how “things they’ve always done” will survive this season of rapid change. 

But we’re learning together that questions about SURVIVING do not lead to THRIVING.  

Let me mention here the work of the Thrive Center at Fuller Seminary. Its purpose is to explore and promote what thriving looks like in individual human lives: The Thrive Center aims to equip people to tap into their deepest sources of joy in order to purposefully engage in creating a better world, and we offer a vision of human thriving with practical resources and practices to assist.”  

So, when “life happens” and you feel like you’re barely hanging on, it’s tempting to descend into survival mode. But the path forward is “the road less traveled”—when we focus on what leads to thriving, we rise above our circumstantial threats. We have sought to do just that with our Thriving Congregations churches by helping them launch ministry experiments that connect to “engines of thriving.” We believe these commitments help churches “tap into their deepest sources of joy,” as the Thrive Center encourages…  

  • Increasing capacity to be present to God and one another. 
  • Developing an inclusive, welcoming, and inviting culture of hospitality where outsiders are treated like insiders. 
  • Helping members build intentional, deep, authentic, and inclusive friendships where they care for and encourage each other in life and faith. 
  • Creating a candid and caring congregation that addresses difficult issues and what matters in people’s lives. 
  • Introducing and demonstrating ways that people can talk about and practice faith in their daily lives. 
  • Creating opportunities for people within our church to be visible expressions of God’s love in our community. 
  • Becoming more deeply networked with other Christian churches & communities.
  • Developing a culture of openness and experimentation.  
  • Increasing the capacity to manage anxiety/fear. 

I’m guessing you’ve seen some version of the image at the top of this post before. It’s such an important picture of thriving. Of resurrection. Of the kingdom. Isn’t it? We may be (justifiably) worried right now, but God is not worried. He is focused on our thriving, no matter how hard or impossible our environment seems…

Dr. Nancy Going serves as the Director of Research & Resource Development for Vibrant Faith. Nancy lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Art, an Anglican priest, and they have launched two new families from their children.


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