“Apart from the excellent training, my highlight from the Leadership Programme has been the group of people I have shared it with who have become friends. The diversity of experiences and backgrounds creates a rich environment for both conversation and learning from each other that has been incredibly worthwhile.”
This programme is part of Thrive Ireland’s wider strategy and is centred on the values of the kingdom of God complementing our other strategic aims of peacebuilding and Church Community Transformation.
“The opportunity to take time out and reflect with peers on the challenges of leadership in our current placements, and receive quality inputs regarding resilience, dealing with difficult relationships and other issues, is invaluable.”
For example, within many of the public housing estates, a legacy of the conflict is control through fear, by paramilitary organisations. Recruitment of young people into such organisations is still rife, with punishment violence a normal part of everyday life. Anti-social behaviour is controlled through threat and punishment beatings, eviction from the area and young people attending pre-arranged beatings. In this context local churches and leadership either avoid this reality, are ill prepared to engage effectively or do not even know that it is happening.
As a consequence church leaders called to engage effectively in these settings are more likely to suffer from work related stress, chronic fatigue and burnout. Even within the main denominations, accountability and supervision of clergy in such settings is often low and not well understood.
Churches remain a major community resource with capacity and commitment to long term presence in a local area. Therefore the inculcation of integral missional values which have relationships at their heart will help churches to better understand that their missional role can have a lasting transformational impact on the wider community both locally and regionally, building a community with Christian values at its heart, a community that is just and equitable.
Thrive Ireland’s foundational conviction is that at the heart of the gospel is both our relationship with God and our relationship with each other. The Protestant churches in areas of socio- economic deprivation are searching for ways of reaching out to the lost and building positive relationships within these communities.
Through experience and research funded by the Community Relations Council in N. Ireland, it is clear that the capacity of church leaders, both clergy and laity within such areas is low. This is demonstrated through an inability to engage with fractured relationships and offer more practical community support. In such areas there is often increased pastoral need and a low confidence and skill base within the congregations.
In most of the large denominations across Ireland, support and leadership training in dealing with issues such as community conflict, community cohesion, capacity building and skills development for greater personal resilience and community transformation. Theological training colleges prepare leadership well in spiritual and theological understanding. However, in areas of deprivation, in the context of community conflict and community development needs the church would benefit from additional support and expertise. This is pertinent when it comes to the challenges of working in areas of socio-economic deprivation in a post-conflict society.