...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Clergy Peer Group Works!

"I felt drained by the demands" was the prevailing reason pastors gave for leaving a position in local church ministry. (58%) The next reason was a feeling of isolation and lonliness. (51%) The study was reported in the 2005 book, Pastors in Transition: Why Clergy Leave Local Church Ministry. No real surprizes here.

After serving in a ministry setting outside a local parish for several years, I realized how isolated and disconnected I was in my previous years on a large church staff. After returning to a local church staff in late '03, I convened two or three different groups of clergy, but one in particular has stayed together. It's now made up of four male clergy who, like myself, find a monthly lunch together followed by prayer time a welcome sabbath. We have been meeting now for over four years, with some changes in the group members. For the third year, we are planning a retreat. This year's content on the Enneagram is a continuation of last year's study. It is led by a Spiritual Director of the Cenacle Retreat House.

A wise professor at Duke Divinity School (John Westerhoff) frequently advised us that if we hope to lead others in the spiritual life in healthy ways, a pastor needs both a spiritual director and a therapist. That is, we would need both if we plan to do good to others by first doing no harm. I have often found that wisdom beneficial. I would add to that guidance: "Find a peer group where you can be yourself, and where you can pray for each other."

"You show me the path of life..." (Psalm 16:11)

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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If you want a formula for making the best of the less-than-perfect and making the most of what you have been given, then begin to compare your lot to what you were before you were born, and it will empower you with wonder every time. John Claypool

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