by Major Lesa Davis
To support the territory’s Mission Imperative of “More People, More Like Jesus,” the Spiritual Life Development Department has introduced THRIVE, an online spiritual formation course for soldiers and officers.
Following a cohort model, the course focuses on facilitating spiritual growth and ministry development for participants. With membership limited to 20 participants, the first cohort began in February and concluded at the end of September.
Fifteen people initially took the challenge of setting aside several months for reading and studying, interacting with other participants on a weekly discussion board and faithfully practicing spiritual disciplines. The group included both officers and soldiers, ranging in age across several decades, from across the territory. Their reasons for participation varied, but all were eager to grow spiritually with a view toward ministering better to others.
Course materials included Christian classics and more contemporary writings on the spiritual disciplines, holiness, healthy spirituality and more. The weekly discussion board became a vehicle for exchanging thoughts, ideas and questions between participants. Each module concluded with participants gathering their key insights and plans for incorporating the course material into their everyday lives. In addition, cohort members committed to praying for each other throughout the process, which proved to be a meaningful part of the entire experience.
The course culminated in each member planning and implementing a personal retreat designed to help them reflect on the experience and write a simple Rule for Life to help them continue to thrive after the cohort ended. Although the retreat originally was intended to be a corporate experience, COVID-19 restrictions made that impossible. Instead, each participant received a retreat-in-a-box with everything they needed for a meaningful day of solitude, prayer and planning for future spiritual growth.
Twelve soldiers and officers completed the entire course and now are charged with finding ways to implement what they learned daily in their homes, corps and work or appointments. One of THRIVE’s immediate benefits was soldiers and officers who might never meet in person getting to know each other and finding they feel a true connection and commitment to encourage and support each other. This has been particularly meaningful as the cohort navigated through the limitations caused by COVID-19.
When Cadet Mario Bledsoe signed up for THRIVE as a soldier he expected to learn and grow. What he didn’t expect was to gain an entire prayer team to support him in his journey toward officership. The week he entered the College for Officer Training, a cohort member wrote, “I would never have gotten to know Mario without this course, but now I feel committed to being his cheerleader and praying for him as he goes through training.”
Captain Christopher White says the impact of THRIVE already has been felt in the St. Louis Gateway, Mo., Corps congregation because of the participation of soldier Lyn Walton.
“When I saw the description of the course in the Central Connection, I immediately thought of Lyn. She has a deep spiritual life and loves to learn, so I knew this course would challenge her to grow even more in spiritual wisdom and maturity,” he said. “Lyn is our prayer sergeant, a role that is very meaningful to her and to our congregation. During the course, we have all benefitted as she regularly shared what she was learning and experiencing during our corporate prayer times. She has challenged us all to grow alongside her!”
The next THRIVE cohort is scheduled to begin in January 2021 and run through the end of June. For more information and an application contact Major Lesa Davis: [email protected]