Below is summary of a webinar presented by The Church Network discussing the Project Thrive 7 Thriving Traits found in a congregational study conducted by Belmont in 2019. The webinar is part of a series that focuses on how congregations practice the thriving traits.

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Thriving Trait 6: Missional Focus

Defined by Project Thrive: born out of abiding awareness of their particular identity.

Emily Anderson and Matt Cook challenge the idea of missional focuses in churches.

Shifting Focus

Emily Anderson is the pastor of New Providence Presbyterian in Maryville, Tennessee. She starts by sharing that “the church as I knew it was going to die and resurrect in my lifetime, I wanted to be a part of that… What I’ve learned is that the dying and rising are happening at the same time.”

Emily articulates that there is a difference between doing mission and being a mission. Recently, New Providence Presbyterian viewed missions only as spending a third of the budget on writing checks to missionary organizations, preferably overseas. 

A missional DNA stays with a church forever. Emily challenged New Providence to move from reaching a budget percentage for missions to giving the congregation opportunities to do missions in the community. New Providence is now involved closely with Maryville College and other aspects of the surrounding community, including care for the homeless community.

Challenging the Impact

Matt Cook, CHC Assistant Director, shares how a previous church he pastored thought that mission work was limited to giving money. The church focused providing funds to multiple organizations, so many that the congregation could not name where all the funds where going.

Matt challenged the church to reflect on how to maximize their impact by narrowing and deepening their focus, by leaning on the strengths and uniqueness of the church. The church, then, can imagine how their strengths can meet the needs of others as a platform for missions.

He adds that churches across the country are changing in various ways, from church services to missional identities. He suggests that church leaders expand the idea of what serving the community means. And, Matt suggests a starting point to serving is to look at the community  demographics to identify needs that can be met.

Both Matt Cook and Emily Anderson point to capitalizing on the greatest strengths of the church and the greatest needs in the community. 


Can you identify a strength about your church? Discuss with others in your congregation how the strength of your church can meet the needs of the community.

Watch the full Missional Focus webinar here.

Feel free to learn more about New Providence Presbyterian Church or Matt Cook.

Want to learn more about the 7 Thriving Traits? Access videos and shareable content!