Pastor Peer Groups: 'You can’t do this job alone'

4/26/2018

The "Reverend Mommies" peer group with Bishop Sue.

By Rebecca Wallace

Some pastors say that being in an accountability or peer group is one of the most life-giving things they do. Our very own Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson has stayed connected to her accountability group in Florida even as she is serving as Bishop. Throughout the conference, there are several great examples of pastor peer groups that may have started with a need to hold each other accountable but have since grown to be much more.

Rev. Terry Walton, District Superintendent of the Atlanta-Marietta District has been a member of his peer group since long before he became DS. In fact, affectionately calling themselves Job's Friends, Terry’s group has been together for three decades.

“Initially, nine of us got together once a month and started with formal study, but it has evolved quite a bit over the years,” says Terry. “One year we even went on a ‘barefoot cruise’ through the Bahamas where we had a captain and two mates. That experience really tested us as individuals and as a group!”

What Job's Friends exemplifies is that these peer groups are about much more than praying together, sharing best practices and even holding each other accountable in terms of professional behavior, work, and management style. Though being in a peer group is about those things, it also becomes a safe place for pastors to go through life challenges together, such as sickness, divorce, and loss of parents, but also the difficulties in pastoring.

“We have such a deep relationship with one another. We can speak the truth in love to each other,” adds Terry.

Rev. Blair Zant of Cannon UMC in Snellville speaks similarly of her group of clergywomen who are also mothers.

"This group has been essential to me as a person, pastor, wife, and mother,” she says. “It is an incredible feeling to know that there are at least six other clergy out there who have my back, will encourage my work, tell me the truth, and guard the truth I share.”

Like Job's Friends, the Reverend Mommies as Blair’s group calls themselves has celebrated the births and adoptions of children and life challenges such as the loss of parents, but they also resource each other through challenging church leadership issues. Explains Blair, “We are nothing revolutionary. We came together out of desperation! And we are learning to disagree well with one another over issues that are important to us.”

Terry commented that when you are pastor, you have to always be present for other people. Who is there when pastors need support?

“You cannot do this job as a lone ranger,” he says. Being a preacher’s son as well, Terry said he has always known that being clergy is a lonely profession. “When pastors struggle, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Who are my friends? Who can I rely on to talk to about this?’”

“Balancing all these parts of our identities and responsibilities is not easy,” explains Blair. “Most of the time, we are just normalizing each other's crazy.”

Probably one of the most important things a pastor peer group can do is allow the members to remind each other that they are normal people. It allows pastors to “be real” and be more authentic husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and pastors. It allows them to feel connected, according to Blair.

She adds, “It took guts for two other pastor moms to invite us all to breakfast. It took guts for each of us to show up. I'm grateful for so much bravery." 

Rebecca Wallace is a communications consultant (and United Methodist) in Atlanta.
 

ACE2: Register Now for May Informational Meetings


The power of peer groups is so evident that the North Georgia Office of Ministerial Services has launched the Academy of Clergy Excellence, a new alternate continuing education initiative designed exclusively for North Georgia clergy.

Through this program, clergy commit to a two-year self-selected peer learning group. Each group will design a custom continuing education plan wherein groups will share best practices, gain new tools and explore adaptive adventures for making new disciples. This new approach to continuing education in North Georgia Conference is centered around clergy bonding together, learning together and dreaming together in order to refresh self, church and the communities we serve.

Applications for ACE2 will begin this summer 2018. The inaugural class of ACE2 will begin in the fall. 

Want to learn more? Register today to attend an informational session at www.ngumc.org/ACE
 


comments powered by Disqus