What Does it Mean to Be a Flourishing Church?

Flourish: Center for Congregational Imagination is a new center of the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. The center will focus on helping churches and ministry leaders find paths toward flourishing.

Our hope is that the center can be a resource and a conversation partner for congregations and leaders who are searching for a healthy future path for a given church. In many ways, the core function of the center is to collect and share stories from churches and leaders finding creative paths forward with churches undertaking that journey.

What does it mean to Flourish?

When we use the word “flourishing” we are describing a congregation that understands itself to be energized and focused on participating in God’s work in their setting. Flourishing may mean numerical or financial growth, or it may not — in fact it may mean a tighter focusing of more limited resources. Flourishing for one church may look quite different from another church.

Churches and Leaders have questions

Churches are increasingly considering their focus and purpose in their various settings. They may be asking questions like these:

  • We know why our church was started, and our journey since then, but how are we called to be shaped and focused in a rapidly changing setting?
  • Our resources are stretched, both in terms of time and finances. If we can no longer offer the full range of common ministries, how do we choose where to focus?
  • We believe God is at work in our community. How do we better recognize God’s work so we can join in (even if it takes us on paths never before traveled)?

The Flourish Center seeks to encourage questions like these by gathering stories, connecting congregations, and providing resources for congregations on this journey.

A hypothesis

We are already hearing themes and common threads from congregations and ministry leaders that understand themselves as flourishing. There are churches that are flourishing — churches that have discovered new ways of doing and being church that have energized their life together and in their wider communities. What can we learn from these congregations? What can we learn from the leaders of these churches?

Below are some initial threads that we suspect may repeat as we collect and share these congregational stories.

Local – Flourishing churches are aware of and involved in their wider communities. They create or join networks to create something meaningful in their unique setting, with their collection of assets.

Focused – Flourishing churches do a few things (perhaps just one thing) well. They focus time, energy and resources on a key ministry or network to meet real needs in their setting.

Sending – Flourishing churches are focused on finding ways to be active in their communities. This may or may not lead to more persons attending services or events at the church, but instead attends to ministry in the world.

Spirit-Led – Flourishing churches express an awareness of the unpredictable and challenging work of the Spirit. Learning to watch and listen for the work of the Spirit — especially in unexpected places, people and ways — is part of the life of a flourishing congregation.


Sharing Stories

The initial phase of the Flourish Center focuses on collecting and sharing stories. As we hear the stories of congregations, we may notice processes, values, approaches and habits that can be helpful to other churches. Our goal is not to develop a system or program, but rather to encourage churches to discover their own journey to flourishing in their places.

Our podcast is the first way we are collecting and sharing stories. Most episodes are only 30 minutes in length and each episode focuses on a single church and their story. We anticipate publishing a new episode each month.

Later, the Flourish Center will offer events where churches and leaders can connect, share and encourage one another. Our students and faculty will be developing creative ways to listen and share the discoveries from congregations.

If your church has a story to share, please let us know by emailing us at flourish@bsk.edu.