The Big Shift
So, what did the CCK Board and Staff do with the discovery of the “it” factor?
We made a big shift and changed our focus.
Rather than putting our limited resources into congregational revitalization programs, we developed a process to resource our pastors to lead congregations for a rapidly changing world. Then, we stand ready to assist them in their ministries in ways they believe to be helpful.
Our first step was the implementation of a peer group model for pastors. This came as a response to some specific needs identified by a group of pastors in a district ministers’ luncheon. A pilot group of 10 pastors committed to a year-long journey of spiritual renewal and discovery. The group met once a month for the better part of a day. Each gathering began with a Lectio Divina experience to focus us and awaken us to the presence of God’s Spirit in our midst. This experience usually lasted an hour or two and could sometimes be our topic of discussion for the whole day. We were open to God’s leading in each gathering.
The more common experience shifted us to a topic of conversation that I would introduce, at least in the initial phase of the pilot. After a few months, topics were introduced by the pastors as turns were taken to lead the group. It is hard to find the words that adequately capture the spiritual depth and insights that flowed from these conversations. I have filled a notebook with a small portion of what was shared. Trust and support grounded each gathering. God’s Spirit became more evident in each of us. The fruits of the Spirit I witnessed were: a growing confidence to meet the new ministry challenges pastors face today; the courage to live, love and lead like Jesus; and, the willingness to explore the vibrant new ways people are manifesting the love of God through new kinds of church models.
The original group, now more than 5 years old, has continued to meet monthly. Transitions, common to ministry, have changed the make-up of the group. Some of the original pastors have been called away to new ministries in other regions. Other pastors were invited to join. The pilot group continues to demonstrate the power of peer-to-peer relationships, grounded in faith and love, and fueled by the Spirit of God. What arises from these experiences is a new freedom of openness to discover and explore new vistas of ministry and mission in the world.
Building on all we learned from the pilot peer group, we launched a new peer-to-peer group model entitled, “Learn. Love. Live (3L).”
3L is built on the same premises as the original peer-to-peer pilot ministry. 3L added a three-day retreat as the launch point for each group. The retreat focuses on community building, congregational systems theory and the importance of grounding one’s ministry in a daily spiritual discipline. It has proven to be an invaluable part of the journey.
Currently, there are three, 3L groups meeting. Like the pilot group, transitions of various kinds have changed the make-up of some of the groups. New models for doing peer-to-peer ministries are being explored. At least one more 3L group will be launched later this year.
The feedback from the ministers who participate in these peer-to-peer groups continues to inspire the CCK staff and board to invest more and more time and energy into this kind of support system for our pastors. We will continue to explore new ways to make them better, ever relevant and more inclusive of all our pastors.