Thoughts on Flourishing...

Joel Nelson

Director of Church Strengthening, Converge North Central

  • Church strengthening

A healthy church, though it may look different from church to church, it is the desire of every pastor. My growing conviction sees a virtuous cycle where  flourishing people help build a thriving congregation which is sustained by a healthy pastor and leaders. These leaders then invest into the flourishing of individuals and on it goes.
So, for the pastor and leaders who are considering how they might better lead and equip their people to flourish, where do you start? What boxes should be checked?
Believe it or not, the topic of human flourishing is a broad and still growing field of study. One of the main contributors is Tyler VanderWeele, lead researcher at Harvard University. From his research, human flourishing is often seen through the perspective of relationships, vocation, finances, and well-being. (There is one more aspect, but you have to wait until the end of this article, or hit the link now if you can’t wait!)
Let’s look a little deeper on each item.
Though our world is more connected than ever, our lives are filled with obstacles which make authentic and meaningful relationships tough. In many cases, this relates to technology. This is most pronounced among the Millennials and Gen Z generations.
There is more to this than an occupation, as it includes purpose. What is an essential part of living a fulfilled and meaningful life? It’s answering the ultimate question of Why am I here? The pandemic has caused many to begin looking at their occupation under the lens of purpose and fulfillment.
You know money had to be on this list! Finances affect how we relate and navigate in the world and how we see our future. Though finances are only one aspect of human flourishing, and perhaps not even the most important, they are a more tangible and practical factor that contributes to human flourishing.
Emotional, mental, and physical health are all interconnected. When one increases, it’s likely the others will increase as well. Recent studies show that on this side of the pandemic, anxiety, dread, loneliness, and fear are significant concerns for many.
Here’s a final component of human flourishing:
This same research out of Harvard on human flourishing reveal that those individuals whose lives are grounded in faith, and maintain a connection to  an active church community are more likely to flourish in the other key areas of life. Read that again. those individuals whose lives are grounded in faith, and maintain a connection to  an active church community are more likely to flourish in the other key areas of life. You know that. Harvard researchers know that. A grounded faith and a connection to a church is good for every aspect of your life! VanderWeele summarized it this way in a 2021 Christianity Today article: People find their social and personal lives improved—sometimes their lives are even physically saved—when they go to church often.
Want a Bible verse?
Psalm 92:12 says, The righteous thrive like a palm tree and grow like a cedar tree in Lebanon.
As you’re sitting in your office, or kitchen, or coffee shop reading this, what’s a take-a-away as you ponder the concept at the beginning of this article?
If you begin with these insights on human flourishing, what are opportunities for outreach and discipleship within your community to reach people in the flourishing life of faithfulness? Are there experts you could partner with to address these needs?  Are there new approaches to ministry and preaching topics that might address people’s desires and needs?
Here's an example to get you thinking. Think about relationships, consider how they are integral not only to well-being, but in the formation of faith and discipleship. How might your church’s ministry of hospitality speak to this? Perhaps it’s rebooting something old or creating something new. But more so, it’s not just seeing potlucks and small groups as merely ministry programs, but viewing them in a more strategic light to reach a new audience. And not just reach a new audience, but having the church be an active participant in an meaningful and effective way towards a faith that is deep and a life that can flourish.
I’d love to hear how you are changing your ways to help people flourish. Let me know!

Joel Nelson, Director of Church Strengthening, Converge North Central

Director of Church Strengthening

Additional articles by Joel Nelson