Thrive Project

The Thrive Project is a multi-faceted effort focused on helping ministry professionals to flourish in their professional work.  It includes the creation of a conceptual model of ministry identity formation; the provision of a program for new ministers going through the ordination process; coaching for pastors experiencing burnout or a desire to redefine their ministry purpose or direction; and research into ministerial role satisfaction.  Explore the facets of this project below.
Element 1 - Conceptual Model Development

Program creation is often served best by having a theoretical foundation that provides a strong justification for how the program is designed and implemented.  In consideration of the Thrive Project described here, there are two theoretical perspectives that provide this foundation.  They include identity formation as discussed in the writings of Mead (1934), Stryker (1980), Cooley (1902), and James (1890) and family systems theory, particularly theoretical ideas related to differentiation as discussed by Bowen (1991) and Friedman (2011).  These foundational theories are integrated into a ministry leadership theory presently called: The Maturity/Growth Model of Pastoral Leadership Development (Kimsey-House & Kimsey-House, 2015).  This model will help explain and predict the factors related to ministry career development.  This model also provides foundation for the Thrive Project and Research on Thriving in Ministry elements described below.  

Element 2 - Thrive Program Implementation

The Thrive Program is designed to augment the Wesleyan denominational ordination process by providing additional training and experience for pastoral candidates.  Stated differently, this program is designed to supplement existing ministerial education by helping ministry candidates understand (1) their own strengths and limitations, and (2) how to lead congregations in healthy and vibrant ways. 


Description of Program


The program is comprised of annual workshops, held over a period of four years, the first of which took place in May 2016.  Each workshop consists of pre-workshop readings and assignments; the workshop itself, comprised of lecture, discussion, and experiential activities; and post-workshop coaching/mentoring.  This curricular design is created in a manner that maximizes content and skill acquisition and retention as well as creating a robust workshop environment that is efficient in its use of time and personnel.  In addition to the overall format of the program, the design is intended to provide all candidates with a strong support system that will encourage and help them as they progress through the transition into the ministerial role. 


Workshop #1 - New Beginnings Workshop


This workshop is based on role acquisition theory focusing on facilitating effective transition to the new role of minister.  It explores the participants’ expectations of the new role and helps develop strategies for making the transition smoother and easier to navigate.  Included in this workshop is the importance of developing effective support systems that include pastoral mentors, peers, and family.  This helps participants to strategize on how to create these support systems, along with suggestions for developing alliances with members of the participants’ support systems. 


This initial session also includes a detailed discussion and exploration of assessment results as they relate to individual uniqueness.  This discussion centers on how individual uniqueness impacts ministry gifts, aspirations, and serving others in ministry.


Workshop #2 - Relationships Workshop


This workshop introduces participants to the importance of healthy relationships in ministry.  It introduces the idea of congregational systems thinking and discusses the methods and procedures for understanding and establishing a healthy balance between ministry and family/home, the establishment of healthy boundaries in relationships, and exploring special congregational relationships with church leaders, board members and ministry/support staff. 


Workshop #3 - Systems & Conflict Workshop


This workshop discusses congregational systems thinking with a focus on when congregational systems become unhealthy.  This workshop includes dealing with manipulative relationships and conflict.  The majority of the workshop will address conflict methods and procedures, and will include leading participants toward a thorough understanding of their own conflict management styles, as well as intervention strategies and procedures for addressing conflict, including: conflict coaching, mediation, and church discipline. 


Workshop #4 - Leading from Who You Are Workshop


In this workshop participants will discover how their personality impacts their leadership style within the church.  This discussion explores the strengths, vulnerabilities and weaknesses of their unique leadership style.  In addition, participants will learn about a biblically-based model of servant leadership.


Participants will also explore the Thriving Leadership Paradigm.  This model of leadership focuses on the participants’ development of a mature, healthy leadership presence that will promote thriving, congregational functioning.  

Element 3 - Pastoral Coaching


I recently coached the daughter of a pastor, and our coaching conversations, at least in part, focused on her sense of God’s calling on her life.  She revealed a deep reluctance about accepting the call into ministry herself because of watching her parents go through the “struggles of ministry.”   Our discussions often referred to those experiences as the under belly of Christianity.  In a very mature way, she talked about how reluctant and fearful she was of pursuing a ministerial career.  Her gifts and passions were all aligned that way, but she wasn’t sure that she could survive the interpersonal and sin-related issues that are very prevalent in this profession.  She eventually reconciled this personal struggle and made her choice to continue moving toward a life in ministry.  But her story is at the center of why pastoral coaching is included as part of the Thrive Project.   Many pastors and other ministry professionals are seriously considering their options.  Maybe they are burnt out.  Or maybe they are considering a redefinition of their ministry focus.  Pastoral coaching is particularly beneficial in these cases because it provides the space for ministers to make resonant choices for their future.

Element 4 - Research on Thriving in Ministry

Theoretical models can predict when, how, and why someone will thrive in ministry.  The reality is that theoretical models don’t address the complexity of human behavior.  Therefore, it is helpful to conduct research that can be useful in confirming and refining theory.  Research can also be helpful for organizations to explore the level of satisfaction of their ministry employees and help delineate factors relevant to employee retention and attrition.  In response to these reasons, Dr. Poff is currently in the process of preparing a research proposal that will assess ministry satisfaction.  This research will incorporate the theoretical model discussed above and explore factors that are associated with ministry wellbeing.

Click on the link below if you would like to learn more about the Thrive Project.