TWU and the Flourishing Congregations Institute researchers interview Canadian churches on what leads to growth and resiliency

“The Stories We Tell” event on May 9 presents research findings

Leadership transitions. Mergers. New building projects. These are just some of the critical moments that can challenge organizations like churches.

Researchers from Trinity Western University and the Flourishing Congregations Institute have been looking into what factors help churches shape and maintain their vitality during critical periods and year-round, leading to congregational flourishing. 

See the event "The Stories We Tell" on May 9, 2023 

Dr. Michael Wilkinson, Professor of Sociology at Trinity Western, says that “congregations across the country are characterized by their own particular strengths that allow them to flourish.” Wilkinson received a grant for studying “Flourishing Congregations” from the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) to study how congregations work from positions of strength.

'Fostering resilience and hope even during challenge and change'

The research team includes Dr. Katie Steeves and Dr. Jason Burtt from TWU’s Sociology department.

“It has been an enriching experience to be part of this national collaboration and hear the stories coming out of congregations across Canada," Dr. Steeves comments.

"I look forward to sharing some of our preliminary case study findings that point to the power of storytelling in churches for fostering resilience and hope even during challenge and change.”   

Upcoming event: 'The Stories We Tell' 

The CCCU funded project and Flourishing Congregations Institute are working together to conduct research on Canadian congregations and will be sharing some of their findings at an event on May 9, “The Stories We Tell,” at Trinity Western University.

The event presents congregational narratives that help shape group identity and culture in ways that are critical for a church’s ability to be resilient and flourish.

A central thread is that religious organizations are human organizations—thus human and organizational actions figure prominently to create and sustain stories and subcultures of resilience and flourishing.

The research is drawn from in-depth interviews with churches from BC, AB, ON, and NS and highlights the perspectives of Catholic, mainline Protestant, and conservative Protestant traditions.

Four 15-minute case study presentations will anchor the event. Speakers include Michael Wilkinson (TWU), Katie Steeves (TWU), Joel Thiessen (Ambrose), Mark Chapman (Tyndale), Sam Reimer (Crandall), and Cathy Holtmann (University of New Brunswick).

Following this, pastor Jason Ballard of The Way Church in Vancouver will offer some reflections on the case studies, with a focus on application for church and denominational leaders. Attendees are welcome to join in the Q&A and discussion.     

Since 2016, researchers from the Flourishing Congregations Institute have been asking whether church growth can be measured in ways beyond attendance and numbers. They have discovered that, among other factors, a church’s ethos built upon its organizational identity, leadership, and innovation is key. Church members’ faith development and active participation in the life of the church are additional markers of congregational health, while external engagement with the wider community also propel a church’s growth and flourishing.

About Sociology at Trinity Western University

Trinity Western’s Sociology program provides an exceptional opportunity to match one’s studies and values in order to create positive social change. This program has an applied focus in sociology, with opportunities to choose from a wide variety of practicums in helping professions. Learn more at Sociology at TWU.

About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is a global Christian liberal arts university. We are dedicated to equipping students to discover meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. Drawing upon the riches of the Christian tradition, seeking to unite faith and reason through teaching and scholarship, Trinity Western University is a degree-granting research institution offering liberal arts and sciences as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has four locations in Canada: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, and Ottawa. Learn more at or follow us on Instagram @trinitywestern, Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Image by Daniel Tseng on Unsplash.