We believe churches have the capacity to thrive. The remarkable resiliency of churches creates opportunities for innovation and creativity while truthfully proclaiming the gospel.
A focus on changing attendance patterns, leadership failures, cultural shifts, and political distractions could suggest the church is in perilous times. To think this way is to forget there have been many times across the ages when similar or more daunting challenges faced the church.
The work we will be doing together grows out of the shared commitment of the Rev. Charlie Curb Center for Faith Leadership and the Moench Center for Church Leadership at Belmont University and their work with the Center for Healthy Churches. In the summer of 2019 we interviewed twelve churches in Charlotte, NC; Dallas, TX; Nashville, TN; Philadelphia, PA; and Richmond, VA each of whom had experienced significant and positive transformation in recent years. We gathered our insights and applied for a new grant program from the Lilly Endowment focusing on Thriving Congregations.
We were fortunate to be awarded a grant that will allow us to work very intentionally with eighteen churches in Nashville for the next five years. The churches with whom we will be working are mostly in the core of Nashville. They are Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and Episcopal. Some are established congregations and other newer. Some are larger and others are smaller.
There are many things about them which are different, but they all share a common desire to thrive in their community. We believe churches can thrive and we believe that thriving can be explored around three principle expressions of the church: community, mission, and practice.
The church today thrives when it responds to changes in its communities. These changes might be economic, social, political, racial, or physical. Change can be resisted or welcomed and it may come uninvited or cultivated. The changes may shed light on the need to change cherished traditions, practices, or beliefs and it is the kind of change that can be disruptive or transformative.
Thriving churches embrace the transformation offered to them by change.
The church today thrives when it focuses on is mission. Churches in communities embody the wonder of unique identities proceeding out of theological commitments and community needs. Each local congregation has a gospel voice in the community, for the community, and to the community. A church can only be the church it needs to be for its community and it cannot be a church for some other community or some other leader’s vision for what it is supposed to be.
Thriving churches understand their community and their purpose to meet the needs of that community.
The church today thrives when it remains committed to classic Christian practices. The richness and breadth of the Christian church creates many different styles of worship, varied sizes of congregations, differences of theological commitments, and expressions of ministry. At the core of all Christian churches, centered around the transformative message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, churches build community through teaching, praying, worship, and fellowship. The classic Christian practices of the church extend a shared purpose across communities and expressions of mission.
Thriving churches faithfully engage the sacraments and practices of the Christian church.
Join us on a journey as we partner with eighteen amazing churches committed to thriving. We represent five denominations of churches in Nashville, TN, who are excited to work together to explore paths to thriving. Through focused spiritual discernment, appreciative inquiry, asset mapping, and a commitment to best practices, we will learn together how churches can thrive in their community.
We will share our work together and the insights we gather in our research and conversation. Our greatest hope is that what we learn together can strengthen many other churches in their work with their communities as they live out their mission as a church at work and worship.
Join us for the journey we will take together.