Thrive Ministries provides safe places for church leaders and their families to be open and honest about the challenges they face in life and ministry. Some of the realities of ministry leadership today includes pastors, pastors’ spouses and families who are grieving. Ministry leaders experience a variety of losses: thriving church ministries that have been damaged by disunity, ministry visions that have not been realized, personal lives that have been negatively impacted, emotional, spiritual and physical health that has been compromised, trust that has been broken within their Christian leadership circles…. and the list goes on. Some limp along, isolated from others, relying on God for his healing and comfort in their lives. All too many others walk away from the call of God, too wounded or disillusioned to continue in ministry. Far too few receive the support and resources they need to totally recover from their experiences and re-enter the race with less baggage and stronger from working through and being transformed by their challenges.
Through different settings our volunteers provide church leaders with resources and support when they need it most. We focus on spiritual, relational, physical and emotional health through specialized groups and services and one on one conversations. Thrive’s volunteers have ministry leadership experience and understand what ministry can be like. So please contact us today firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an initial confidential conversation.
Cathy Gates – Thrive Ministries Director
Cathy has a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Ottawa. For many years she worked in public health, focusing on health promotion and disease prevention. In 2000, after a 20-year career in public health nursing, Cathy felt called into full time ministry as executive director of an evangelical church. Her experience in leadership during a very tumultuous time in that church’s history gave her a real sense of the challenges faced by church and ministry leaders. She witnessed and experienced the toll leadership can take emotionally, relationally, spiritually and physically. Cathy’s public health background gives her a unique perspective as a person of faith and as a person in ministry. She encourages Christian leaders to thrive in all areas of ministry and life through coaching and education. Some of her specific areas of interest are burnout prevention and healing from life and ministry experiences through formational prayer. Cathy holds an Executive MA in Strategic Leadership from Southwestern Assemblies of God University, Texas where she focused her research on support systems that reduce pastoral attrition. She has completed the Formational Prayer Certificate Program through Ashland Seminary, Ohio. During 2009 Cathy worked with PastorCare Clergy Support Network as the National Leadership Development Director. She currently serves on the board of Aftermath Foundation – an organization dedicated to providing education about psychopathy and supporting individuals who are victims or relatives of those affected by psychopathy. Cathy is married to Brian Cook. Brian serves the Lord through 12 step recovery programs and prison ministry. They have three adult children, Rob, Ken and Trisha.
Dave brings over 25 years as an ordained minister serving as a pastor and assisting within different mission organizations. He has been married for over 40 years to his wife Evelyn. They have 3 children and 2 grand children. In his spare time he enjoys reading and travelling.
John Garner – Pastoral Advisor – John has taken a leave from Thrive while he adjusts to retirement. We look forward to his return.
John was born in Lindsay, Ontario and adopted at the age of one month by Jim and Olivia Garner. A ‘God thing!’ He was raised primarily in St. Catharines and was enjoying a career in men’s wear retailing when he experienced a definite call from God to begin training for pastoral ministry. He studied at Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto and graduated with a Bachelor of Religious Education. For 35 years John has served in pastoral ministry, currently serving at Redeemer Bible Church in Niagara Falls as Lead Pastor. John was the founding Director for Willow Creek Canada and has spoken at conferences for Willow Creek, Focus on the Family and Promise Keepers. John and his wife Peggi have spoken as a couple in different workshop settings on the theme of ‘Marriage and Ministry.’ John has been married to Peggi for over 30 years. Peg is an R.N. who serves Christ in the work setting as well as more pastoral, missions and leadership settings. They are grateful parents to two adult sons, Peter and Jordan. Also, very grateful for a great daughter-in-law, Jessica, married to Jordan. And, as of June 27, 2011, John became a ‘papa’ to Jonathan George Garner, son of Jordan and Jessica. John has a passion to help see people become and grow as courageous and passionate followers of Jesus Christ. He yearns to see the local church as a place that radiates the heartbeat of Jesus which is marked by an abundance of grace and truth. John enjoys golf, a life- long passion, having scored his first hole in one in 2008. He and Peg enjoy traveling, opening their home to friends and enjoying good food and drink. Biking and walking are a consistent part of John’s fitness commitment. Reading a wide variety of books, newspapers and magazines keeps John well stocked in’ food for thought’ and message illustrations.
Rick Wukasch – Soul Focus Retreat Leader
Rick is a pastor, spiritual director, and formational prayer caregiver. He is currently retired from pastoral ministry at both Spring Garden Church, North York, and The Meeting House, Oakville Site, supporting small group community, spiritual formation, prayer, care, and relationship ministry teams.
Having been in spiritual direction for over 30 years, he trained at Tyndale Seminary and has grown in providing spiritual direction to a broad variety of people during the past 12 years. He has a special interest in journeying with pastors. Rick partners with the Holy Spirit, helping people recognize, experience, and respond to God in everyday life. Husband, father, and grandfather, Rick is most at home with family, or in the natural realm on a hiking trail, in a canoe, or in his garden.
Board of Directors:
As founder Thrive, Cathy is committed to providing a safe and confidential refuge for pastors, Christian ministry leaders and their families where they can be honest and open about the issues and realities they struggle with in life and ministry. She brings experience as a public health nurse, former executive director of a large evangelical church and more than a decade of ministry to pastors and their families.
Creating spaces for people to connect powerfully with God is key to Debra’s ministry calling. With over 20 years of leadership experience in both church and para-church ministries, training in Executive Coaching and Spiritual Direction she brings a rich understanding of leadership opportunities and challenges. Being attentive to the soul needs of people in ministry is what creates the alignment between Debra’s own calling and Thrive Ministries Niagara. Debra has served on the board since September 2019.
She is a caring listener, making people feel at ease wherever she goes. Debra is a risk-taker and adventurer having lived in the Yukon Territory, traversing the Rocky Mountains and playing women’s ice hockey. Debra and her husband Tracy live in Fenwick and have a big extended family spread out across Canada.
In joining Thrive Ministries as Treasurer, I bring many years of experience as a Chartered Professional Accountant working in not for profit organizations in various accounting positions. Along with being on the Board of Directors I look forward to my involvement on the ministry side of Thrive. I have been an ordained minister for over 25 years serving as a pastor and assisting within different mission organizations.
I have been married for over 40 years to my wife Evelyn. We have 3 children and 2 grand children. In my spare time I enjoy reading and travelling.
Sarah Shennan works professionally in online marketing and creative writing, and lives with her husband and two daughters in the beautiful Niagara Region. After spending several years on the mission field in Indonesia, she returned to Canada with a heart to support pastors and ministry leaders and is happy to serve on the Board of Thrive Ministries.