...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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Taxonomy of Resilient Pastoral Ministry

In Resilient Ministry, we are given a comprehensive formula for clergy recovery. Written by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman, and Donald C. Guthrie (2013), the volume is presented like a doctoral project. It reports on seven years of research coming out of their Pastoral Summit meetings with pastors. Their research includes the authors' own experiences and literature surveys. The book is probably as impressionistic as it is scientific.  

The "Pastoral Summits," and subsequent reporting were funded largely by the Lily Endowment. The book discusses the main themes which the authors argue arose out of these group experiences: spiritual formation, self care, emotional and cultural intelligence, marriage and family, leadership and management. 

There are plentiful quotes from Pastoral Summit participants, in fact, nearly everything in the book is referenced by multiple quotes. Along with the themes discussed, the book explains in painstaking detail the selection rationale for Summit groups, and offers the same guidelines for starting your own clergy/cohort group in one of the Appendices. 

As thorough an argument the book supplies for their recommended design for clergy groups, it seems  finally limited to the evangelical culture of the authors, such as including - requiring- spouses to be participants in the Summits. In many evangelical churches, the husband and wife are considered to be the pastoral team. Yet, the book still cautions against the bad habit of dumping on the nearest available person you trust, which is usually spouse.    

My conclusion is that the book will possibly be more popular among academics and administrators and committees who look for a diagnosis of resiliency and improved retention in the pastoral ranks. Some words church bureaucrats love to throw around - like fruitfulness- are in these pages too. However, for the sake of our own survival and more- we need not- nor should we- wait until all the authors' conditions are in place before we get serious about the health of our own soul and reach out to others in community. 

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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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