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Thrive! Equipping a Vibrant Church Together Week 2 April 9, 2019

Thrive! Equipping a Vibrant Church Together

The vision of our Southern Ohio Synod – “Stronger and Better Together: Joining Jesus in the Restoration of the World – was adopted at the 2016 Assembly. That vision has been the driving factor in the launch of several new initiatives over the last three years, but it became clear that something more was needed to truly pursue the vision’s goals. That “something more” is what led to the Pastoral Advisory Cabinet (PAC), a comprehensive feasibility study, and the Thrive Campaign.

What is Thrive all about? Why would the Synod need a funding campaign? How can it be sustainable? We will try to answer those questions and more through this series of weekly Thrive email blasts leading up to the June 7-8 Assembly, at which Thrive will be fully presented, and you and your congregations will be invited to consider participating.

Today, we hear from PAC member, Pastor Steve Mahaffey, sharing why he is excited about Thrive!

Steve Mahaffey 3x3




I’m very excited and encouraged by the five goals that arose from the synod-wide feasibility study and which are now included in the Thrive! Campaign. However, I’m especially happy to see Goals 1 and 2 (“Equipping Lay Leaders” and “Raising Up Leaders for Smaller Congregations”) as a part of our efforts in moving forward to be Stronger and Better Together. Serving as a pastor these past 15 years in the Muskingum Conference, which is basically the east side of the state from Zanesville to Bridgeport/Martins Ferry and south from Coshocton to Marietta, 

I’ve witnessed our congregations struggle to keep pastors, and then struggle to figure out how to continue their mission and ministry without one. I’ve been an advocate for years to create new ways and methods that will enable and equip our lay members to practice the priesthood of all believers so they can continue in their mission efforts and remain relevant in their communities.

These two goals will obviously include much permission giving, so that our smaller congregations and lay people who lead them will not only be strengthened with the necessary knowledge and skills, but the confidence and belief they can do these things, trusting they will have a network of others to depend on. It’s also my hope that, as people take a more active role in leadership, the Holy Spirit will raise up people who sense a call to enter the TEEM and SAM programs. I believe with the support of the Synod and the collaboration with other congregations, our smaller congregations will not only maintain a Lutheran presence in their communities, but will be strengthened in their worship life, mission and outreach.

Rev. Steve Mahaffey (St. Luke’s, Marietta)


Here are more details about Goals #1 and #2 of the Thrive Campaign, mentioned by Pastor Mahaffey.

Goal 1: Equipping Lay Leaders

The Synod will be seen as leading and providing networks through which lay leaders will be more highly equipped for leadership within their congregations, be more effective in their communities, and thrive in their ministries. This will include:

  • Train and mentor companions who will assist congregations with strategic planning
  • Training for congregation council presidents
  • Offer Stewardship for All Seasons program for 10 congregations per year
  • Raise up new leaders for the church through discernment retreats and intentionality


Goal 2: Raising Up Leaders for Smaller Congregations

Identify and equip fifteen lay leaders to enroll in the TEEM (Theological Education for Emerging Leaders) or SAM (Synod Authorized Ministers) program to serve in contexts where the congregation is not able to fund a full-time rostered pastor but still has a desire for mission.

  • Provide financial support for education of TEEM and SAM candidates


“Stronger and Better Together: Joining Jesus in the Restoration of the World”
The vision leading us to Thrive!


Our Synod’s vision has brought about successes positively impacting the life of congregations and church leaders across the synod. One such success is the Congregational Resource Team. Sue Eubanks, a member of the team, here offers some thoughts on successes she has witnessed because of the vision, and how it is calling us to continue to Thrive:

I have been privileged to participate in two Listening Post processes, along with other members of the Congregational Resource Team. In both cases, the Listening Post process opened up communication across the congregations about the challenges and opportunities they have in living out their mission. The members were able to articulate their hopes and fears about their congregations in a safe setting, and our team was able to summarize their challenges and opportunities in ways that rise above their day-to-day activities and emotions. Rather than developing a report that “tells” the congregation what to do, we lifted up the key questions that the congregations need to answer for themselves. Feedback from the process has been very positive, with the congregations reporting that they now have a framework for discussing how they can better focus on their mission and are developing the skills that allow them to do that.

Sue Eubanks, Holy Trinity Upper Arlington


“For further information about Thrive, please contact Campaign Manager, Pastor Larry Donner, at”



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