Thriving Congregations, 2020-Present

The overarching purpose of the Thriving Congregations Initiative is to strengthen and learn from congregations and further solidify the relationship between congregations and LTS.  Thriving Congregations seeks to expand the relationship by answering the question, “How can we create opportunities that lead to thriving congregations so they in turn becomes sites from with others, particularly pastors, lay leaders, and students, can learn with and from congregations?”


  1. Congregations will obtain a clearer understanding of how they understand their identity and thus, articulate a clearer sense of their mission as congregations.
  2. Congregations will obtain a clearer understanding of the role of the pastor in the development and sustenance of a congregation’s mission.
  3. Congregations will obtain a deeper appreciation for the role of an empowered laity in the development of identity, vision, and mission of a congregation for greater ecclesial effectiveness in their faith communities.
  4. Congregations will develop an understanding of how the measure progress for greater ecclesial effectiveness in their faith communities.

Learning Communities

Congregations from Arizona, Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky have been selected to participate in learning communities for the first four years of the project.  Twenty-three congregations are participating in groups of three or four congregations.  These learning communities serve as small group cohorts for the duration of the project.  LTS has invited African American, Latinx, and bi-vocational congregations to participate in order to further the ongoing work and research of the Office of Lilly Projects.


  • Annual gatherings in Lexington (or on Zoom due to COVID19) for a conference surrounding the year’s objective.
  • Quarterly meetings of the Learning Community with the Project Director to discuss progress and evaluate further needs.
  • Annual reading project within the congregation’s leadership team.
  • Annual visit with each congregation from the Project Director.  When possible, these will be in person visits.

Intended Outcomes

The primary outcome is for congregations to become stronger, more vital congregations within their own context.  Another important outcome is an enhanced protocol for the Accountable Ministry Site program at LTS.  In conversation with the participating congregations, LTS will analyze the workings of these congregations and use what we learn to improve curricular and programmatic offerings that support the learning and life of a congregation.  Finally, this process will better prepare students for a life in ministry.