Atlantic District pilots THRIVE meetings for licensed ministers

The Atlantic District of The Wesleyan Church has launched a four-year pilot of THRIVE workshops for licensed ministers seeking ordination and in process with the District Board of Ministerial Development (DBMD). THRIVE exists to improve the likelihood for new pastors to thrive in ministry.

Reverend Peter Moore, Atlantic District assistant superintendent and DBMD member says, “THRIVE is to augment our DBMD process. We are called the DBMD, but our process has primarily consisted of a series of forms, meetings and boxes to check. We want to add the ‘development’ piece and address perceived deficiencies commonly experienced by new ministers. It seems a common experience that once a minister is ordained, the minister is left alone to contextualize ministerial training within the early years of service. THRIVE is an intentional attempt to address this gap in our ministerial development.”

The THRIVE DBMD Track is comprised of annual workshops beginning at the credential of licensed ministers and sometimes spanning into the first year or two after ordination. Approximately 50% of the THRIVE workshop registration fee is subsidized by the Division of Education & Clergy Development and the Atlantic District.

Workshops include pre-workshop readings and assignments and post-workshop coaching/mentoring. “Each participant is coached for six one-hour sessions while seeking to understand and apply insights gleaned from the workshop,” said Moore. Workshops are not sequential, so a licensed minster may use any workshop as an entry point.

The workshops are based around the following concepts:

New Beginnings

  • Participants explore role expectations and form strategies for making the transition smoother including developing effective support systems as a pastor. Content is based on role acquisition theory focusing on facilitating effective transition to the new role of minister.


  • Participants are introduced to the importance of healthy relationships in ministry and learn about congregational systems thinking. Methods for understanding and establishing a healthy balance between ministry and family/home are discussed, as well as establishing healthy boundaries in relationships. Special congregational relationships with church leaders, board members and ministry/support staff are explored.

Systems and Conflict

  • Participants will be led toward a thorough understanding of their conflict management styles, and intervention strategies and procedures for addressing conflict. Discussion includes congregational systems thinking with a focus on dealing with unhealthy congregational systems.

Leading from Who You Are

  • Participants will discover how their personalities impact their leadership within the church. The discussion explores the strengths, vulnerabilities and weaknesses of each participant’s unique leadership style. Instruction about biblically based servant leadership is also included.

The first workshop was held in May 2016. Eleven coaches, trained over two days, were joined by 21 licensed or recently ordained Atlantic District ministers. Dr. Dan Poff led the workshop and, “provided a deep dive into the understanding of vocational calling and how spiritual gifts and leadership style are embraced through unique personality traits in ministry.”

Each participant received a 75-page report based on results of the Grip-Birkman Inventory. “The Grip-Birkman Inventory mixes the Birkman leadership piece with the Grip spiritual piece and creates a triangle of styles, roles and gifts,” Moore said. “It is a tool to help ministers identify their spiritual gift mix thus helping them define their leadership thumbprint.”

In evaluations, participants expressed the benefits of their experience.

“I have a healthier understanding of team dynamics and relationships,” one participant commented. “I feel better equipped to navigate ministry life with a focused contribution, leaning into my strengths and seeing how I can contribute my part in all that is happening.

“I better understand why I am the way I am,” another participant commented. “It’s almost impossible to capture how life-changing that is, and how helpful it is to be able to pinpoint weaknesses. I can’t do everything, and this was ‘proof.’ It has also given me a better sense of delegation – I understand the areas where I am weak as a leader and how I should recruit around my weaknesses. I’m not guessing what those weaknesses are anymore; I have concrete language I can use and boosted confidence in my requests, with an increased sense of urgency.”

The Atlantic District is excited about the continued development the THRIVE pilot will provide. Moore says, “Our hope is the model we create with THRIVE will be one other districts may choose to replicate or tweak in a way to contextually fit their needs.”