Regional Pastors Bookshelf: Flourishing in Ministry

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When Pastoral Resources provides a free book for reviewing, I’m challenged to find out if I’m “paying too much” for it. You can write me and let me know what you think.  

Matt Bloom’s book, Flourishing in Ministry, may not deserve the term “a genuine treasury” or “…benefit greatly” as the back cover would have us believe. Nevertheless, there is merit in my challenging fellow Regional Pastors to have a look at it, hopefully at least read the pages I’ll be referencing. 

In his Introduction, Bloom makes a valid, obvious to some, point. “Pastors still matter…a great deal.” He references research to substantiate his assertion with which I had not argued…as of yet. Citing examples, he declares the obvious observation that pastors’ “Enacting facades of conformity requires a great deal of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy and, therefore, are very corrosive to wellbeing.” (p.13)

He further observes: “Candid conversations about areas of agreement and disagreement could help ensure that values alignment is stronger.” In other words, be open and real about mutual expectations! (Even yours about this review?)

Chapter 2 on RESILIENCE would best be utilized by taking the segment on “The Essential Elements of Resilience” on pages 19, 20, 21 and discussing in a small group “self-awareness, self-reflectivity, and self-control” as explained. Doing so would lead to a challenging time, if those participating discuss truly honestly. 

Chapter 3 on AUTHENTICITY drives home the need to have an identity outside of being a pastor. Our chaplains with their emphasis on “Life Stories” would certainly agree that if we know “Our Story,” we’d be healthier in this regard. There’s more to life than being a pastor and knowing our story helps us see it!

Chapter 4 on THRIVING has few notations in my copy. Some readers may wish to unpack the word “eudaimonia” along with Aristotle. I didn’t! Page 45 concluded it for me, “We must know what we believe.” Those who do will make sure they have positive connections with others who do. 

Chapter 5 on PATHWAYS TO MINISTRY emphasizes Eugene Peterson’s 2011 book dealing with developing a pastoral identity. An oldie but goodie! Here, too, knowing “One’s Story” is helpful in discerning how we got to being this phenomena called “Pastor.” A thunderous call seems less frequent, with its being a vocational choice appearing more frequently as I listen to a new generation. 

Chapter 6’s LIVING A CALLING AND BECOMING A PASTOR led to loud “AMEN!” on page 68 when Bloom wrote, “…when being a pastor is the totality of a clergy’s identity, challenges and difficulties almost always follow.” He proceeds by giving direction on how to navigate being a pastor. Doing so is the obvious that we as Regional Pastors emphasize: having role models, wise guides, genuine fellowship, and regular conferring. His notes on “alternate credentialing” on page 76 warrants reading by my CRC colleagues. It has its pitfalls.  

Chapter 7 on SOCIAL SUPPORT emphasized once again the need for genuine relationships. The need for significant, similar and structural support paints a scenario fading fast from the CRC scene. He concludes with words of warning for the “leaders” among us. Are Regional Pastors included? 

Chapters 8 & 9 on the STAGES OF MINISTRY and THE WAY FORWARD provide the most practical application for us. Dealing with trust and accountability means doing business!

Reading the advice may have the reader saying, “Duh!” at times, but he does provide practical application to our work in helping pastors survive, as well as thrive (the desirable outcome). Read Bloom’s book and see if you agree. 

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