Program Description

The Iona Collaborative believes small communities can reflect God’s vision for a flourishing world.

Today’s culture of rapid change presents an ideal learning opportunity for bi-vocational churches to gain greater clarity about their unique callings. We encourage discernment by facilitating theological reflection on reimagined spiritual practices that lead to new life, both in the congregation and beyond the walls. Our five-year initiative, Thriving Bi-Vocational Congregations: Envisioning New Life in a Changing World, a three-phase program, will support congregations willing to identify and respond to their changing circumstances.

This program is about spiritual growth, not ASA.

Ideal participants for this program:

  • Desire to grow spiritually as a congregation
  • Dream about answering God’s call for their church and community
  • Dare to be vulnerable and creative together

Who May Apply ▼

Thriving Bi-Vocational Congregations is a three-phase program for churches who are or will soon be bi-vocationally led. We define bi-vocationality as broadly as possible. A church fits our definition of bi-vocational if it is led by one of the following:

  • A lay person or a team of lay people
  • A priest trained in a local formation program
  • A non-stipendiary priest (or other leader)
  • A part-time clergy-person
  • A clergy-person serving more than one church

We are recruiting churches to begin our program in January 2023. We will be holding Q&A sessions and accepting applications September – November 2022 (see Important Meetings and Dates section below for details). Only applications from bi-vocational churches in Iona Collaborative member dioceses will be accepted.

Is your diocese a member of the Iona Collaborative?

Click Here for a List of Participating Dioceses

If not, how might your diocese become a member? Please contact Nandra Perry, Director of the Iona Collaborative for more information.

Three-Phase Program Description ▼

Our program focuses on spiritual formation of the church as a whole and teaching discernment techniques to leadership teams.

Phase 1: Exercises that promote Awareness and Reflection

Phase 2: Exercises that promote Discernment, Awareness and Reflection

Phase 3: Exercises that promote Action, Discernment, Awareness and Reflection

*The program integrates three phases (above) rooted in the principles and practices of spiritual direction as defined by Chad R. Abbott and Teresa Blythe.

Phase One: Embracing the Gifts and Challenges of Bi-Vocationality

  • What makes bi-vocational churches unique? 
  • What are markers of a thriving congregation? 
  • How are we already thriving? What adaptive changes might be necessary to thrive as a bi-vocational congregation?  
  • The focus of this phase is less about making substantive changes and more about growing in self-awareness as a parish. 

Phase One Dates: January 2023 – May 2023

  • In-person gathering anticipated at the end of Phase One during Spring 2023
    • 2-3 people from each parish invited attend
  • Monthly 2-hour cohort meetings on Zoom March-May, 2023

Phase Two: Learning to Listen to the Spirit  

  • Each church will be assigned a spiritual director to work with them one-on-one. Leadership teams will practice theological reflection and discernment around contextual issues the church is facing.
  • Community Conversations: All churches will be invited to monthly, topical conversations on Zoom around common issues facing all churches today.  
    • This is an opportunity for cross-pollination of ideas and experiences
    • Topics such as: What to do with church buildings, changing demographics, creative ideas for Sunday morning,
  • The purpose of this phase is to apply discernment and theological reflection practices to issues facing the church community.

Phase Two Dates: September 2023 – May 2024

  • Monthly spiritual direction session (90 minutes each) to be set between the director and the church team.
  • Community Conversations are from 6:30-7:30  CT one Wednesday a month
  • We anticipate an optional in-person gathering towards the end of Phase Two

Phase Three: Answering the Call beginning September 2024  

  • Each church will discern a project for phase three.
  • Projects will vary church to church
  • Phase three will emerge from the spiritual direction sessions and the community conversations
  • Phase three will last between 2-9 months depending on the project

Important Meetings and Dates ▼

1. Attend a Q&A session on Zoom, 6:30-7:30pm CDT on September 21, 2022 OR October 19, 2022. You can register for the September 21 Q&A session here.

2. Submit the application by November 18, 2022. Applications will be emailed to churches who attend one of the Q&A meetings.  

Our Funding ▼

A generous grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. funds this Iona Collaborative program. The aim of the Endowment’s initiative is to help congregations strengthen their ministries and thrive so they can better help people deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the flourishing of their communities and the world.