Flourishing in Christian Mission: Spiritual Practices that Cultivate Well-Being
Doctor of Missiology
Bolger, Ryan K.
This project explores the nature of flourishing among Christian mission workers. The literature reveals that humans flourish best as they take their place in God’s creation. This involves three relationships: (1) Humans are created for intimate relationship or union with God. (2) Humans are created to be in relationship with other people who are in relationship with God. (3) Humans are created to take our place in God’s work in the world. These three relationships serve as a model of flourishing in Christian mission: union with God, participation with God’s people, and engagement in God’s mission in the world.
I developed a survey out of the model design to identify exemplars of human flourishing among selected mission leaders in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and International Justice Mission. Open-ended, individual interviews about spiritual practices were conducted with twelve mission leaders, six from each organization. The data gathered from these interviews yielded three primary findings: (1) Flourishing leaders engage in regular practices that (a) are varied to suit their lives and situations, (b) are adapted to their contexts and personalities, and (c) are profoundly communal. (2) They participate in regular retreats to quiet the voices of the world and give focused attention to God and rest for their bodies and spirits. (3) They have regular groups that serve as critical places to be vulnerable and authentically honest about their lives, missions, and relationships with God.
The data also indicated that flourishing leaders engage in spiritual practices with a sense of hopeful expectation that gives energy and persistence to their spiritual lives. They also engage practices in the context of spiritual companionship of counselors, mentors, or spiritual directors who provide wisdom, perspective, and affirmation of the truth of God’s love.
From the data, I designed and tested an intervention intended to cultivate flourishing in mission leaders. The pilot project featuring quarterly retreats, weekly spiritual practices, and monthly mentored small groups was implemented among twelve pastors from around the United States. Action research, an open-ended survey, and public record statements indicated that Fuller Formation Groups are an effective means of cultivating well-being among mission leaders.
Mentor: Dr. Ryan K. Bolger
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