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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