New Agency to Serve Congregations
On July 1, a new agency of the Christian Reformed Church in North America officially began. Thrive is a consolidation of nine former, small ministries of the CRCNA, each of which had its own synodical mandate and budget: Chaplaincy and Care Ministry, Faith Formation Ministries, Disability Concerns, Diversity, Safe Church Ministry, Pastor Church Resources, Race Relations, Social Justice, and Worship Ministries.
Over the past 18 months, these ministries have reorganized into a single entity, which was endorsed by Synod 2023. Former mandates have been dissolved, and a new mandate focuses on encouraging and equipping congregations.
What does this look like in practice?
Thrive codirectors Lesli van Milligen and Chris Schoon asked synod delegates to spend a few minutes talking at their tables about the needs their home congregations are facing. They also asked folks to email them with a summary of what was discussed.
“We received over 30 emails with valuable information about how we can support congregations right away,” said van Milligen.
Here is a brief sample of some of the topics that were raised:
- How do we minister to people in our neighborhood, especially those who are different from us?
- Our ministry leaders are burned out. How do we support them?
- We have a growing percentage of seniors in our congregation. How can we tap this resource to provide intergenerational mentoring to younger generations?
- How can a small church, with limited resources, invest in missional action and impactful discipleship at the same time?
These are the types of things that Thrive is designed to assist congregations with. By bringing together nine small congregational-focused ministries, Thrive aims to be more accessible, more responsive, more integrated, and more stewardly than these ministries could be in the past, while also serving congregations in their specific needs and helping them to carry out their mission locally and around the world.
“We’ll still be active in making churches safe from abuse, including people of different abilities, encouraging faith formation, supporting chaplains, coming alongside pastors and churches in conflict, and all the other things that we’ve been doing. We’re just now doing it together, under the Thrive name,” said Chris Schoon, U.S. codirector of Thrive.
Van Milligen gave an example: “Imagine a congregation reaching out to Thrive as they enter a transitional time of vacancy. Thrive can connect them with a specialized transitional minister (STM), who is vetted and trained to serve in situations like this. The STM also has knowledge of other Thrive resources and is able to connect the congregation to a facilitator who can help them leverage the hospitality they are already good at on Sunday morning. As a result, 20 leaders in the church become motivated to share this hospitality in more ways throughout the week. They address technical challenges, such as the need for increased signage, and adaptive challenges, such as inviting the congregation’s ministries to assess their hospitality opportunities. This is comprehensive congregational support, and this is what Thrive is about.”
With Thrive, congregations now have one access point to connect with if they have questions or are looking for assistance. Once they reach Thrive, staff will have a comprehensive network of resources and staff to connect them to, depending on the needs of the local church.
“When we start hearing about new needs from churches, we can respond in a more nimble way. It won’t take a synodical overture and study committee to respond to new needs as they arise from our churches,” added Schoon. “Instead of siloed mandates, the broad Thrive mandate will allow us to support churches in a more holistic way as new needs arise.”
This is no small undertaking, he explained:
“We need your prayers as we make this shift. We need your continued engagement and feedback as we try to be responsive to the on-the-ground needs of our churches. And we need your continued financial support.
“A change like this makes the fundraising staff very nervous, because, in the past, individuals and churches have supported those nine ministries separately. Now we are just one. We need you to continue your financial support through ministry shares, church offerings, and as individuals.”
To learn more or to subscribe to the Thrive newsletter, visit crcna.org/Thrive.