2021 Clergy Thriving in Ministry Virtual Cohort

Logo identity for the School of Divinity's Thriving in Ministry continuing education program

Building a Foundation for Thriving:
2021 Clergy Virtual Cohort Groups

This program invites clergy to discern and align their gifts, talents, energies, and professional identity in their current work in ministry and with their broader vocational trajectory by sharing wisdom among clergy cohorts and sharpening leadership skills through multiple forms of mentoring. The design of this program is to provide community, enhance ministry leadership skills, offer space for renewal, and strengthen authentic identity.

Cohort webpage


Description of the 2021 Clergy Thriving in Ministry Virtual Cohort

In 2019, the School of Divinity of Wake Forest University received a Lilly Endowment Inc. grant to help ministers thrive. We launched our Thriving in Ministry Initiative in January of 2020, with cohorts for Interim Ministers and Church Start Pastors, with the intent to begin cohorts for Multi-vocational pastors (MVPs) and Associate pastors (APs) in January 2021. We have decided to pause in moving forward with MVPs and APs. In 2021, we will offer a specially tailored* cohort for clergy in any ministry setting or role, who want to thrive in 2021 and beyond.

In a profession where work/life balance is an ever-present challenge, you currently find yourselves ministering in ways you might not have imagined or only dreamed were possible prior to March 2020. Over the past Covid months, we have repeatedly asked the question, “What do clergy now need in order to thrive?” We know there is no one answer to that question, but we believe that in a community, you can find an answer that is best for you.

Our facilitators will provide the space to discern how to thrive in these times through our 2021 Thriving in Ministry Clergy Virtual Cohorts. Participants will engage the building blocks for thriving* (happiness, resilience, authenticity, and flourishing) in small groups and in group conversations with personal development professionals.

For 2021, we are opening the scope, in quantity and role/setting, for the 2021 Clergy Thriving in Ministry Virtual Cohort.

*The focused content for this cohort will be designed by each small group based on what participants feel they need in order to thrive. The general content will continue to engage the foundation of Dr. Matt Bloom’s building blocks for thriving.


Goals and Emphasis of the Program

  • Meaningful ministry
  • Leadership
  • Innovation in the church and ministry
  • Innovation in leadership
  • Well-being (spiritual, physical, emotional, social)


Cohort Size

Maximum of 30 participants total broken into smaller groups of 6 participants, with 1 mentor leader for each group.

Once your application is approved, you will be assigned to a cohort with 5 other ministers who may be from other denominational settings and potentially from across the country. Your group will have one mentor leader, one group coach, and the opportunity to connect with other types of coaches such as a group spiritual director, a group therapist, a group physical trainer, and a group financial educator.

In lieu of in-person gatherings, participants will receive a stipend to spend within the boundaries of thriving in ministry (which is almost anything except bills, debt, food, retirement (or other investment), on someone else, or on your congregation).


Boundaries for Acceptance and Commitment Expectations

Who should apply?

  • Clergy/Ministers
  • Currently serving in any faith community congregational setting
  • Ministry is your primary career – even if you are not paid for full-time work, ministry describes your career
  • Committed to the church – even if this pandemic has led you to question many things about your calling and the future of the church, you wish to THRIVE in ministry
  • At any stage of your career; however, because the focus is on thriving in ministry, we will give priority to those who are early- and mid-career ministers
  • Someone who yearns for community and a cohort with fellow ministers and will give of yourself to help the group engage
  • Someone who is actively thinking about the opportunities of the pandemic for the future of the church. While you may still discuss how to adapt to these times, you are really interested in the conversation about innovation and creativity for what may be next.
  • Someone who will commit fully to the monthly program meetings and will attend every session unless emergency unforeseen circumstances arise


Commitment Expectations – 4 hours a month

  • A commitment to attend a required 3 hours of virtual monthly meetings from January – December of 2021
    • Instructional call – one-hour session with the program directors attended by all cohort participants (35 individuals). This session will immediately precede the group call.
    • Group call – one-hour conversation with the small group participants and their mentor (7 individuals). This session will immediately follow the instructional call.
    • Coaching call – one-hour conversation with group participants and their coach and mentor (8 individuals). This session could be at a different day and time of the month than the instructional/group call as the group determines.
  • Additional one-on-one conversations with your mentor every month (an estimated one half-hour of time a month via phone, Zoom, text, email, etc. as individuals determine)
  • Reading and writing assignments to provide context to your meetings (an estimated one half-hour of time a month in various formats including readings, videos, podcasts, written reflections, etc.)
  • A commitment to vulnerability and confidentiality with your cohort and small group


Confirmed Meeting Dates

For the instructional/group call, the cohort will meet in a 2.5-hour block on the 4th Thursday of each month (except November and December) from 1:00 – 3:30 pm EASTERN. The first hour will be for the instructional call (1:00 – 2:00 pm ET) followed by a half-hour break (2:00 – 2:30 pm ET) and then an hour for the group call (2:30 – 3:30 pm ET).
Commitment to these meetings is required.

  • January 28, 2021
  • February 25, 2021
  • March 25, 2021
  • April 22, 2021
  • May 27, 2021
  • June 24, 2021
  • July 22, 2021
  • August 26, 2021
  • September 23, 2021
  • October 28, 2021
  • November 18, 2021 (note, this is the 3rd Thursday of the month)
  • December 16, 2021 (note, this is the 3rd Thursday of the month)

For the coaching call, there will be an additional required one-hour meeting per month with the dates and time TBD per each small group. This call schedule will be confirmed during the January 28 meeting.

Exceptions to these meetings are only given for emergency, unforeseen circumstances.


Presentation and Discussion Topics Include:

  • Authenticity in life and work
  • Abundance in the face of scarcity: an asset-based approach to ministry leadership
  • Resilience: self-awareness, capacity for growth, ability to manage daily demands
  • Discernment for a thriving life and work balance
  • Managing transitions in life and work
  • Innovative leadership – creativity and imagination


Application and Group Dynamics

We will accept applicants meeting the expectations and commitments above and who complete the application form on a first-come, first-served basis until we have filled the 30 participant slots. Approved applicants will complete a covenant of participation before being assigned to a group. Stipends will be awarded half-way through the program.

Application questions you may wish to prepare ahead of time:

  • If you regularly engage in continuing education opportunities, which have been the most significant? (Please include Title, Date, Location, and Brief Description)
  • What has shaped your sense of vocational identity and who you are as a pastor and leader? (300-word limit)
  • Why are you interested in participating in Thriving in Ministry? (300-word limit)
  • How would you describe the ministry role in which you currently serve, and what wisdom have you learned about doing ministry in this role? (300-word limit)
  • What are some of the main challenges you have experienced around your capacity to thrive in your vocation in ministry, and what have you learned about navigating these challenges? (300-word limit)


Note the application period for the ’21 cohort is now closed. Stay tuned in the fall of 2021 for applications for the 2022 cohort.


If you have questions about the program, please contact program co-director Beth Kennett at kennetep@wfu.edu. If you have questions or concerns with submitting your application, please contact Demi McCoy at mccods14@wfu.edu.


Program Leadership

  • Program Co-Director Rev. Beth Kennett, Consulting and Coaching Ministries Coordinator, Center for Congregational Health (kennetep@wfu.edu)
  • Program Co-Director Dr. Chris Gambill, Director of the Center for Congregational Health (gambilcr@wfu.edu)
  • Program Co-Director Natalie Aho, Program Manager for the Baptist Commons, Wake Divinity (ahon@wfu.edu)
  • Program Assistant Rev. Demi McCoy, Co-Curricular Operations Coordinator, Wake Divinity (mccods14@wfu.edu)


Additional Program Information

The Thriving in Ministry Initiative seeks to support clergy in sharpening a range of leadership and vocational development skills that position them not only to survive but to flourish in a moment of profound change in North American Christianity. The program explores leadership practices that promote everyday happiness, resilience, self-integrity, and thriving in ministry (e.g., leadership style assessment and development, leadership in conflict and across lines of difference, asset-based leadership practices, clergy finance, practices of boundary-making and boundary-keeping, and spiritual development). The program also occasions the sharing of wisdom about specific challenges facing ministers in various career stages. The pedagogy of this program is rooted in multiple forms of mentoring and learning including cohort-based learning with peers, professional coaching, and academic instruction.

The goals of our program are:

  • To promote meaningful and purposeful ministry by equipping clergy to align their gifts, talents, energies, professional identity, and understanding of vocation with their work, thereby better situating the routine challenges of their profession, including administrative workload, relational demands, and the like;
  • To invite clergy into an ongoing process of discernment about how their current work in ministry aligns with an awareness of their broader vocational trajectory, and to consider where that trajectory is leading them in future career stages and what it might mean to transition from one career stage to another;
  • To occasion the sharing of wisdom among clergy cohorts representing a range of career stages, from early to late career, about the work of ministry in particular contexts and settings;
  • To sharpen a range of leadership skills that promote everyday happiness, resilience, self-integrity, and thriving in ministry, including leadership style assessment and development, leadership in conflict and across lines of difference, asset-based leadership practices, and practices of boundary-making and boundary-keeping, among others;
  • To strengthen the spiritual life of clergy through an exploration of the spirituality of the Enneagram; approaches to prayer and meditation, and embodied spirituality, among others;
  • To deepen work on the above goals through multiple forms of mentoring consistent with Bloom’s findings on healthy mentoring relationships, including intergenerational peer mentoring and professional coaching, as well as multiple approaches to peer group processing, together offering a variety of what Bloom calls “backstage” and “offstage” opportunities for pastoral formation; and
  • To provide opportunities for what Bloom calls “recovery experiences,” i.e., spaces for recreation and constructive detachment from the rigor and routine of ministry work.


Thriving in Ministry is made possible by the generous support of the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative.