Frequently asked questions about the Thriving Congregations Initiative.
What is a Thriving Congregations cohort? The program will include 3 cohorts, 1 cohort per year, in 2024, 2025, and 2026. Each cohort will consist of 25 congregations and promote a learning process whereby congregations identify both assets and challenges within the congregation and community.
How are cohorts formed? A selection committee will review all applications. Cohorts will be formed to represent congregational diversity in terms of: size (small and large), location (rural, suburban, urban), demographics (culturally diverse), potential of local leadership, and potential of future mentoring/modeling for other congregations in the region. Cohorts may be regionally grouped to make best use of resources. This sub-grouping will reduce travel time to the Spring and Fall in-person gathering for most participants.
If our congregation is not selected to participate in Cohort A, can we re-apply for Cohort B or C? Yes, each cohort is limited to 25 congregations. If we receive more applications than we can accommodate in Cohort A, congregations may re-apply to for Cohort B or C.
Can Spanish-speaking congregations apply? Yes, Spanish-speaking congregations may apply and will receive resource materials in both English and Spanish.
Can all congregations apply? All congregations that are located in the United States and are part of Brethren in Christ U.S. may apply. Limited due to grant-funding specifications.
What is the primary purpose of this program? The primary purpose of this Thriving Congregations initiative is to help congregations foster ministries relevant to the lives of congregants, connect more deeply to God, and strengthen outwardly focused ministries that serve their community.
Are costs related to this program the responsibility of the congregation? Costs of travel to in-person training days for congregations traveling more than 50 miles to in person gatherings and access to assessments and resources are part of the overall congregational investment of this program will be covered or reimbursed. You don’t need a line item in your annual budget to participate in the program.
What are the 3 phases of the program? Phase 1 “Who are we?” will ask congregations to explore who they are as Brethren in Christ and who they are as a congregation. Phase 2 “Where are we?” will lead congregations to examine where they are presently and where they want to be in the future. Phase 3 “What is our impact?” will draw on BIC practices to expand outward focused ministries. Learn more about the program.
What is a congregational health assessment? A congregational health assessment establishes baseline data about the group and its effective ministries. Through honest dialogue among covenant members about the health of the congregation, the assessment works to focus the congregation on the program’s 2 focus areas: church health and community impact.
Amid changing social context, what does it look like for a congregation to focus on community connection? By integrating principles of neighboring, congregations can better embody the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:34-40) and recognize diversity within their communities. When congregations participate in activities with neighbors, the community is strengthened.
Why is it important for congregations to focus on outward-facing ministries? Developing outward-facing community ministries enable us to share the love of Christ and advance the Gospel. This can be done well when congregations have a clear sense of identity and mission. Effective community ministries both build on assets of the congregation and meet community need.
When will congregations receive their community ministry grant? Congregations will receive a $5,000 community ministry grant at the end of Phase 2 to help off-set costs in implementing an outward-facing community ministry project in Phase 3.
Congregational Learning Communities (CLC)
What is a Congregational Learning Community (CLC)? Participating congregations are expected to assemble a Thriving Congregations team made up of pastoral staff, church board member(s), and covenant member(s)); the team should have a minimum of 3 members and maximum of 6 members, reflecting congregation size. This team will commit to engaging in a 3-phase learning process. Each congregational team serves as its own learning community and will work to implement a ministry matching their mission and vision.
Who should serve on a congregational learning community? Each learning community should include pastoral staff, church board member(s) and covenant members interested in the goals of Thriving Congregations. Those serving in the CLC should be passionate about their congregation and community and must be able commit to the time requirements needed.
What are the time commitments for CLC members? The learning community will attend in-person training days and facilitate implementation of any program material at the congregational level. Learning communities will likely meet and correspond as a small group intermittently throughout each phase.
What is the travel commitment for the learning community? Learning community members are required to attend one day in-person training sessions in Spring and Fall during each year of the cohort (6 in all). These trainings will be held in cohort sub-groups in an effort to reduce travel time for most participants. Additionally, learning community members are expected to attend two (2) Summer gatherings (2026 and 2028) in ONE location with all cohorts in conjunction with BIC U.S. General Assembly.
Are travel expenses to attend in-person gatherings covered?Travel expenses will be reimbursed for congregations traveling more than 50 miles to in-person gatherings. Financial assistance for congregations traveling less than 50 miles can be provided on case-by-case basis.
How many learning modules are in the program? Cohorts will complete three Phases with a total of eight modules. (Cohort A will also complete a fourth Phase with two additional modules.) Read more about the program.
How will congregations use the community ministry grant? Congregations will receive a community ministry grant at the end of Phase 2. Based on the results of congregational and community assessments, funds may be used to implement an outward-facing ministry in the local community or strengthen and expand an existing ministry.
Are congregations responsible for reporting to BIC U.S.? Yes, participating congregations will submit quarterly reports to BIC U.S. A reporting template will be provided, and congregations will submit directly to the Thriving Congregations program director. As this is a donor-designated grant, BIC U.S. will compile data from congregational reports into larger reports to submit to the granting body.
How will congregations partner with the church health assessment provider? Grant funding will allow congregations to access a high-quality church health assessment with no fee. Congregations will complete the health survey and work directly with the provider to interpret the data.
How will congregations partner with a neighboring partner tool? A neighboring tool will help congregations recognize their place in the community (presently and in the future) and identify community needs.
How will congregations partner in community ministry development? Specialists in community ministry development will assist congregations in discerning appropriate ministry options as well as assess congregational scope for implementing outward facing ministries.
What does it look like for congregations to partner with BIC U.S. affiliate ministries? When applicable, congregations are expected to partner with BIC U.S. affiliate ministries as a means of strengthening the program and establishing relations across congregations and conferences. Examples of BIC U.S. affiliate ministries include Awaken Network and NextGen Ministries.
What does it look like for congregations to foster community partnerships? Congregations are encouraged to collaborate with people and organizations already in your community implementing an outward facing ministry. Training modules will help direct congregations seek relevant community partners.
How will congregations re-think models of ministry in this program? Throughout the program series, BIC U.S. congregations can embrace a model of church focusing on community connection, thereby strengthening congregational identity and practices that are resilient, peaceful, and hopeful.