Flourishing Friends ‘23–‘24 Cohort Holds Closing Retreat

This year’s Flourishing Friends cohort held its wrap-up and final retreat on May 4, hosted at Carmel Friends Meeting, north of Indianapolis. Flourishing Friends is a program of Friends United Meeting’s North American Ministries department. Facilitated by Scott Wagoner and Colin Saxton, the aim of the program is to give practical tools and coaching to congregations dedicated to assessing their health and tackling some of the challenges they are facing. Six Meetings from Western Yearly Meeting signed up, and committed some of their people, funds, and time to this nine-month journey. All six of these Meetings are dealing with declining attendance and/or budgets, faithfully using their buildings and property, and answering the question of what spiritual vitality looks like.It was encouraging to meet all together at the beginning, middle, and end to share what each congregation had learned, projects they worked on, and outcomes they had seen. There were some humble admissions from congregations who learned they haven’t done very well at loving each other, and ones that identified how often they have not taken action out of the fear of not getting everything right. There were also laughter, applause, and thanksgiving for churches who clarified their mission statement, hired a new pastor, launched a new ministry, or are having an influx of visitors.At this final meeting, Scott and Colin reviewed some of the concepts that had been discussed over the past year about spiritual formation, engagement, functional structures, and creating budgets that reflect our mission and priorities. But most importantly, each group shared what they have identified as “next steps,” and acknowledged that this isn’t the end of a process, but rather, a beginning.

May 21, 2024