The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology has released its second research report to come from Resilient Leaders Project (RLP)—a report that describes what flourishing leadership and contextually-responsive ministry look like through a series of alumni profiles, all peer-identified as “exemplars in resilience.”

“In the first Resilience Report, we looked at the big picture of what Christian leaders need to move beyond surviving the challenges of ministry into growing and experiencing grace in the midst of those challenges. For our second study, we wanted to pay attention to the stories of people who we’d seen flourish in ministry,” said Andrea Sielaff, Researcher for Resilient Leaders Project and primary curator of the Flourishing in Service research report.

“Our questions were big,” said Kate Davis, Director of Resilient Leaders Project. “How do Christian leaders serve in post-Christendom contexts? How do leaders sustain themselves? But those questions couldn’t be answered by a big view alone. We wanted to know how leaders navigate relationships and service in this context. So we decided to talk to a few.”

What is ministry today? And, because we care deeply about the wellbeing ministry leaders, we’re asking: What does it take to flourish in service?

The report began to take shape as Andrea and Kate asked their peers at The Seattle School to identify those who exemplified service in ministry, especially those who were doing so in interesting and unique ways. Upon selecting and interviewing a group of individuals, the Resilient Leaders Project team coded and noted the themes that resonated both within and across interviews, thus forming the foundation of the report’s conclusions. In addition to the conclusions, we are also sharing the profiles of these leaders, as the specifics of their stories inspire a broader imagination for ministry possibilities.

“This focus on the stories of individuals is important because so much of the work we do in Resilient Leaders Project is helping leaders look at their own stories to build self-awareness, self-compassion. We find that looking at your own story actually helps you see and participate in the bigger picture of the work of the Spirit in the world,” noted Andrea.

In sharing this report, Resilient Leaders Project desires to help the Christian community by identifying the themes that will equip others to pursue their own resilience and by articulating patterns about what effective ministry looks like now in a post-Christendom United States.

“The distinction between Christianity and Christendom was really important for us,” said Kate. “We’re based in Seattle, which has often been cited as one of the ‘most post-Christian’ cities in the United States — but our experience doesn’t match that. […] We see lots of flourishing ministry here; it’s just rooted in a different understanding of the relationship between the church and culture. In many ways, the stripping away of the dominance of Christianity has allowed truer forms of faith to emerge. So, what does it mean to serve in a post-Christendom context? What does it mean to love your post-Christendom neighbor? What is the shape of Christian community in post-Christendom contexts? These leaders give us some early glimpses and offer their experiences to help expand leaders’ imaginations for how to move into post-Christendom relationships with faith, hope, and love — and authenticity.”

You can read the Flourishing in Service research report here.