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Thriving Essentials Open for Registration

January 5, 2022

Registration is now open for Thriving Essentials, a four-session course for elders, deacons, church staff, and volunteer ministry leaders.

Two rounds of pilot testing during the summer and fall of 2021 provided significant feedback from participants to help improve the sessions. In follow-up surveys, 94 percent of participants said they recommend Thriving Essentials to others.

Now the Thrive team is launching the course publicly, with new groups starting every month. New groups are limited to 25 participants. Each group meets for one hour per week for four consecutive weeks. There is no cost to participate. If the current dates don't work for someone who would like to participate, they can sign up to be notified when new groups are added.

The first group is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Feb. 2, and will continue on three succeeding Wednesdays in February. The second group starts on Thursday, Feb. 3, and will continue on the following Thursdays in February. Further information and registration links are at

A key focus for 2022 will be on scaling up, said the team. The project will be recruiting people to be Thriving Essentials facilitators who can lead the course for churches in their area. And Thriving Essentials is just the first phase of the five-year initiative.

“In the next phase of the project we'll be adding Thriving Practices groups that build on the themes introduced in Thriving Essentials, and this will give churches an opportunity to join together in learning cohorts around specific topics,” said Elaine May, curriculum director of the project.

“One piece of feedback from the pilot testing showed that people really loved the breakout groups and the opportunity to connect with folks from other churches. Thriving Practices will build on that,” she said.

A goal of the Thriving Essentials course is to get people on the same page about some of the most fundamental aspects of church, ministry, and leadership. Because it is hard to plan ministry when people are operating out of different paradigms, said May, this course seeks to develop a shared vocabulary and framework through sessions on four topics: mission, discipleship, discernment, and leadership.

“Each of the four sessions focuses on one ‘big idea’ about ministry,” said May. “This is about key paradigms for ministry, not a firehose of information.”

In follow-up questionnaires, pilot test participants were asked, “As you think back to all four parts of this course, what did you find most helpful, and why?”

Here are some of the comments:

  • “I really appreciated the week on discipleship, thinking through how to empower people to be walking with Jesus and paying attention to how he is inviting them into his kingdom work.”
  • “Excellent facilitator, one-hour length, variety of presentation strategies, quotes from contemporary writers, interaction with others in the course. All these together made for an effective hour of engagement.”
  • “Concrete examples. Both the opening videos (generalized topic) and the real-life church examples.”
  • “Interaction with others in the breakout sessions; gaining insights from people in all different areas.”
  • “The breakouts and hearing from others. It was good to listen and share and get ideas from others.”
  • “I gave specific feedback for each session, but I appreciated Elaine May's guidance through the content. She was thoughtful, encouraging, and knowledgeable. Her examples were relevant, and she took feedback (made notes) so that she could make adjustments later, which made participants feel heard.”
  • “The examples from what other churches were doing in their particular contexts based on that week's lesson were helpful. The reminder that we are not expected to do many mission-focused ministries to be effective but to do well the one that fits one's own church. We don't need to be like the church across the street or across town. We are called to God's mission, not the one we think we should do – so we should take the time to discern what that mission is.”
  • “Hearing the points of view of others and listening to God's people from other places helps us to grow and to fine-tune our thoughts about ministry in the church.”
  • “Clear descriptions of the topics and how they fit together were very helpful. The group discussions were excellent for hearing multiple perspectives and for meeting new people from all over the place.”

Participants were also asked, “What drew you to this course, and were those expectations met?” Here is what some of them said:

  • “Our church is more or less at a crossroads, so I thought that participating in these sessions would give some good and new insight that I might be able to share.”
  • “A friend at church asked if I would do it with her. I am currently serving as an elder and seeking to reflect on how we are and where we could grow/change. This course provided a very helpful framework to think through this, and I hope to have our council do it as well.”
  • “Curiosity is what drew me, as well as a desire to connect with other churches and see what they were up to – and also always looking for good courses for our congregation to use. Yes, these expectations were all met.”
  • “The concept of thriving was what drew me, but I was expecting it to focus on thriving personally rather than thriving as a church.”
  • “I was drawn to the course because my church is in need of renewal and change, and I was seeking information and spiritual inspiration of possible next steps to take. My expectations were met.”
  • “We've struggled some with our leadership and our ministries, so I was hoping for some clarity and possibly insight.”
  • “I love the Christian Reformed Church, and I find myself called to support, encourage, bless, and pray for the whole as well as its parts. I wondered what was happening in terms of the leadership's desire to help it thrive. I so take delight in being in God's Word in different settings. It was quite different from what I expected. I'm still thankful that I participated.”
  • “I wanted to see how I, as a pastor’s wife, could be a leader in the church. I think this course did well in showing the various ways to be a leader.”
  • “As a lay leader, I can always use help, information, tools, and wisdom from others. The fact that the time commitment was relatively short and doable was a big plus.”
  • “Opened my eyes more on how I can do God's work in my church.”
  • “I appreciated the framework, clarity, and content during these times of unknowns. I was affirmed and reminded of God's desire for all churches to continue to be on mission.”

To learn more and register visit