Thriving Congregations Project
Wesley’s mission extends beyond traditional graduate education. Our vision is to play a key role in the continual renewal of the church. Our innovative spirit has fostered deep relationships with local congregations, most recently through the Wesley Innovation Hub, while our centers in leadership, arts, and community engagement adapt and connect our resources to the church and public spheres. The Thriving Congregations project will help local churches thrive in their changing cultural and social contexts during and beyond denominational anxiety and decline.
All of our research pointed to the same characteristics of thriving congregations: community engagement, individual and communal spiritual growth, vibrant and growing worship, engaging younger and more diverse people (including children and youth), and a clear vision aligned with their context. While these characteristics may seem obvious, they are not easy to practice, especially when most congregations reported being exhausted, pulled in too many directions, and stressed by social and cultural changes.  We believe that, in partnership with pastors and laity, we can help congregations discern an authentic and viable future deeply rooted in their context and in spiritual practices.
The Thriving Congregations program will engage 26 regional UMC congregations in three successive cohorts. The process will be grounded in congregational prayer and discernment and the introduction of new spiritual practices. The first year will focus on understanding their community and working with a coach to plan new activities or ministries, structural or governance changes, or other pruning or pivoting that will help them thrive. Then, each congregation will receive a $2500 grant and one additional year to work with their coach to implement their plan.
 Thriving Congregations survey, Wesley Theological Seminary, July 2019.