The Living Ministry project is a Church of England project researching clergy flourishing. The project is exploring two aspects of flourishing: wellbeing and ministerial outcomes. The hope is that the results of this ten year study will enable the church to support the flourishing of the clergy, and of all people, better so that together we can live more and more of the fullness of life God invites us to. I think we are all called to flourish, to blossom into fullness of life. In a blog for the Living Ministry project, I reflected on human flourishing. To find out more about the project, visit the website at http://www.ministrydevelopment.org.uk/living-ministry-research.
Human flourishing is fundamental to Christian living. God has called each one of us to fullness of life, to be the best version of ourselves. To be the ‘you’ God knows you can be. For much of human history, the majority of people have lived hand to mouth in subsistence economies where the main enterprise of all was the survival of the group. Most humans that ever lived didn’t experience luxury, or substantial leisure time, or have a whole lot of choices about how to spend their lives. But even without those things there have always been humans who flourish.
Flourishing isn’t what we do when we have everything else taken care of; it’s not an icing on the cake sort of thing. It is fullness of life that comes from knowing who we are and whose we are. It is about purpose, relationality, belonging and a whole range of other things that contribute to a meaningful life. It does not require any specific set of circumstances, as the Zimbabwean author Matshona Dhliwayo says “If a flower can flourish in the desert, you can flourish anywhere.”
And yet there are so many things that limit our ability to flourish; sometimes the very things that should be life giving. Christian community should be how we flourish together, but the many pressures of church life and challenges of ministry can damage flourishing. And that isn’t ok. The Living Ministry project is a serious attempt to understand what supports flourishing in ordained ministry and what diminishes it so that as a church and as individuals we can make choices about training and ministry development that are more likely to encourage the wellbeing of clergy and of the whole church.
Jesus’ invitation to abundant life is manifested in the church but all too often, that isn’t what is heard by the wider world or indeed by members and leaders of the church itself. Rediscovering fullness and flourishing and investing in the things that encourage them are vital to the wellbeing of clergy, the effectiveness of ordained ministry and the life of the church.