Thrive Gets Fierce
March 20, 2013
“Thrive gives me hope for the future of the church!”
“My spiritual meter rose three notches today!”
These words of praise come from participants in Thrive, a two-year congregational vitality initiative that includes more than 75 leaders from 20 congregations across the Dioceses of Chicago and Quincy. Thrive, which began in January, brings together committed leaders who want to strengthen the life and vitality of their congregations and develop their intellectual, emotional and spiritual capacities for leadership. Thrivers, as the program’s participants call themselves, first gathered for an overnight retreat and now meet one Saturday morning a month to learn, build relationships and worship together.
Recently Thrive explored how mission and vision create and sustain vital congregations. Participants identified the core values—no more than three—that describe their congregation’s identity and explored how those values might connect with their neighborhood’s needs, spiritual and otherwise. One ordained leader (all Thrive participants have been granted anonymity in order to encourage honest evaluation of the pilot program) said, “The exercise really made me stop and think about what our neighborhood is really hungering for and how our congregation can respond to those needs in a way that is true to who we are."
At their next session, Thrive participants practiced “fierce” conversation and leadership using principles outlined in the bestselling books by leadership consultant Susan Scott. To practice having challenging conversations with others about issues that really matter, they discussed results from recently administered surveys that provide data about congregation members’ experiences. One lay leader spoke for many in the group when she said that the workshop helped her to see the importance of listening more, seeing more, and taking the time to have hard conversations. Another said, “It is brilliant to combine ‘fierce conversations’ with the results of the survey.”
Participants' excitement about Thrive is palpable. “I always feel encouraged after our Thrive Day!” a lay leader wrote recently. “I leave filled with ideas for our parish.” Another said, “I am really benefitting from hanging out with people in leadership positions. I have been somewhat isolated, and thinking about faith and leadership with others is really valuable.” Clergy frequently note that Thrive is not only renewing and energizing their ministries, but also helping them see that they are not alone in leading their congregations.
Learn more about Thrive on the Diocese of Chicago’s website and stay tuned for updates, including a report on the next Thrive retreat in June with leadership expert Sharon Daloz Parks.