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Thriving in 2020


Teresa,* Juli,* and Aman* are all African American pastors serving in positions of leadership in their churches and communities. Like many pastors, 2020 has been a year of upheaval for them, both personally and professionally. Teresa’s town has been at the epicenter of voting rights issues and has been a COVID-19 hotspot. Aman found herself less understood and welcomed in her white congregation after the death of George Floyd and ensuing protests. Juli had planned to plant a new congregation this summer, only to see plans frustrated by the shutdowns mandated by the ongoing pandemic. All three women have lost friends to COVID-19. This year has been a difficult and emotional year for them, as it has been for many of us.

In the midst of the chaos, Teresa, Juli, and Aman were invited by ministry mentors to become participants in the inaugural cohort of TMS Thrive. TMS Thrive is an experiential learning journey for US-based and international pastors. It encourages their thriving in ministry through cross-cultural dialogue, peer-to-peer mentoring, coaching, master classes, and other opportunities to build ministry skills.

Leaning in to TMS Global’s signature work of global missions, Thrive is an opportunity for cross-cultural engagement that facilitates the development of meaningful relationships. The program’s goal is to reduce attrition and provide pastors with skills so that they can more effectively join Jesus in His mission to advance God’s kingdom around the globe.

The TMS Thrive program is a long-time dream for Romal Tune, TMS Global’s vice president for strategic partnerships. Romal and others developed the program in response to the burnout they saw among African American pastors. Romal said, “In looking at the data and seeing what happens when pastors of all cultures are not thriving, it was clear that doing our part to equip pastors with the skills and tools the thrive is essential building strong churches.”

Romal’s insight is born out of research. In its 2017 report, “The State of Pastors,” the Barna Group reported that 37 percent of pastors are at medium-to-high risk of burnout, and 43 percent of pastors are at medium-to-high risk for relationship problems. While only five percent are at high risk for spiritual difficulties, a whopping 61 percent are at medium risk for spiritual difficulties.

The inaugural 2020 Thrive cohort consists of 18 pastors, nine in Ghana and nine in the US, and eight coaches, also divided between Ghana and the US. The participants are also evenly divided between male and female. The program’s day-to-day activities are managed by Mary Kay Jackson, associate director of TMS Thrive. Having served with TMS Global in Ghana for 11 years, Mary Kay is well positioned to be a bridge between the two cultures. “I am excited to be able to share the two cultures I love most. I am convinced that Paul’s call for a diversity of gifts in the Body of Christ is not just for our individual gifts, but for the gifts of scriptural interpretation, worship emphasis, and viewpoint that different cultures bring to the Body of Christ as well.”

While the challenges of 2020 delayed the program launch, they also magnified the need for the program. At the welcome session and program kick-off held at the end of September, there was a great deal of excitement about the program’s ability to help participants meet the demands that 2020 have thrown their way. When Teresa, Juli, and Aman met for the first time in that session, and as they talked in their small group, they realized immediately how much they had in common. The minute the session was over, Mary Kay received a phone call asking, “Can we get together as a group outside the structure of the program?” All three women recognized the benefits of having a group of peers to discuss issues, brainstorm, and support each other. Already the TMS Thrive program is working!

You can learn more about Thrive here.

*Names changed for privacy