“The glory of God is the human person fully alive.”
― Irenaeus of Lyons
To be fully alive is to flourish. At dictionary.com flourish is defined as follows:
verb (used without object)
Surely, the Christian leader and the Christian community desire such flourishing and aliveness for the sake of glorifying God. But, what constitutes “a vigorous state and thriving” for today’s ministers? How do Christian leaders attain their prime and maintain high levels of excellence and influence? What essential ingredients and practices nourish and cultivate wellbeing?
Matt Bloom, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Notre Dame, leads the Flourishing in Ministryproject (https://wellbeing.nd.edu/flourishing-in-ministry/). Dr. Bloom has been asking such questions for more than a decade, and his research produced data that point to numerous factors that influence clergy wellbeing, including but not limited to engagement, authenticity, and relationships. The degree to which faith leaders can engage their best gifts, bring their authentic selves, and connect with others in meaningful relations are all powerful determinants of flourishing, especially at work.
Mel Williams writes about such “aliveness” on Faith & Leadership. He defines and describes abundant life as that which is comprised of energy and vitality and that which wakes people up to a new sense of life. This is the kind of life that Jesus possessed and brought to each human encounter. Williams offers a model of prayer for embracing such a life and reminding ourselves what really constitutes abundance.
May we be rooted and grounded in love.
May we be focused on our mission today.
May we make good judgments about our health and well-being.
May we always enjoy our friends.
At Central we aim to prepare women and men for living wholly and fully alive as they seek God, shape church, and serve humanity — women and men who are rooted and grounded in love, focused on mission, making good judgments about health and well-being, enjoying friendships. Our courses and professors form and equip learners who can thus engage the range of their giftedness and bring their unique and authentic selves to the classroom and the ministry context. Our student success and services staff nurture connection from the application process to enrollment and through matriculation. Cultivating wellbeing is woven into the fabric of our programming.
And yet, we recognize that one’s theological education is not completed in the classroom but continues to be influenced by one’s ministry context. As a $1M grant recipient of Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry initiative, Central recently launched a new program – Formed for Flourishing– that will connect experienced ministers to journey with new/transitioning ministers as they live into new calls and new contexts. Recognizing the critical nature of ministry’s early years for not only growing into one’s pastoral identity but also cultivating the capacity for facing and addressing significant challenges, Formed for Flourishingwill make use of both group and one-to-one mentoring as opportunity for engagement, authenticity, and deepening relationships.
We are currently seeking partners in the work of forming “fully alive” Christian leaders. If you are in the first 3 years of a call and would like a mentor or if you are a minister with 5+ years of experience and would like to be a mentor or if you are a network/denominational leader who works with congregational leaders, contact our program director, Angela Barker Jackson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.