What is a
thriving church?

booming   +   burgeoning   +   developing   +   flourishing   +   growing   +   healthy   +   prosperous   +   robust
Most churches want to be described by these words.

But we live in a time when the church might seem relegated to the bench: a diminished community institution surviving in a facility built for the burgeoning of yesteryear. Individuals and churches are facing complicated questions of mission, vitality, diversity, community and more. And because these issues vary from church to church and community to community, there's no template for addressing them meaningfully. One thing is clear: congregations need tools for unlocking their power to make a difference in their communities. In a polarized, pandemic-weary, war-worried culture, a sharp focus borne out of deep community listening can shift a congregation into thriving.

Montreat's Thriving Congregations
are about this work!

Thanks to a five-year grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., Montreat Conference Center is forming cohorts of ten to fifteen church teams per year for identifying how community and congregational thriving can be linked. Each church brings its own team of four to six people, including their pastor. Together, teams learn the skills of what community organizing means to a church in a community and beyond. Our partners in teaching organizing skills come from the Black Mountain School of Theology and Community; the in-person curriculum is interactive and designed to let church teams support one another as they each dive deeply into the particularities of their own communities.


The Cohort works together in a two-year commitment, meeting in Montreat every six months for two days at a time. Between the visits to Montreat, faculty from The Black Mountain School coach the local church teams and conduct site visits. Their expertise includes theological ethnography, community organizing, contextual understanding, and innovative church work grounded in theological action research. With these skills, and Montreat's ability to help churches connect and learn together, this learning and coaching builds on itself.

Churches engaging in this process leave with a deeper understanding of the systems at work in their community, a vision for where the church can impact those systems for good, and a roadmap for thriving as they become even more integral to and rooted in the place where they are. Over the two years, the hope and action are extended to the church and community. The skills the individuals and then churches use are relational, organic, and become aspects of opening the church and its role in the community and world. Presbyterians are about being reformed and reforming. This process is that! Examining who we are, who our churches are in the community and all the time listening to each other and God, listening for who God wants us to be, where and to what God is calling us.

2025 Cohort Dates

2024 Cohort Dates
March 11-13, 2024: First Meeting for Cohort Three
March 13-15, 2024: Fourth/Final Meeting for Cohort Two
October 7-9, 2024: Second Meeting for Cohort Three
March 10-12, 2025: Third Meeting for Cohort Three
October 6-8, 2025: Fourth/Final Meeting for Cohort Three