When I was first ordained a little over seven years ago, I quickly came to realize that as a young pastor I knew very little about the practice of ministry. There were many situations that I was encountering that made me feel very uncomfortable and unsure. Our church is fairly isolated geographically in the CRC, which often left me feeling like I was alone when facing the realities of ministry. I think that having recently come from the peer-rich environment of seminary probably accentuated my feelings of loneliness in ministry.
During my third year of ministry I was invited to join, and participate in, a peer group that was forming in our Classis. Being a part of that group was great. It gave me an opportunity to listen and learn from the experiences of more seasoned pastors. One thing that struck me was that all of us were facing various challenges each in our own context. It made me feel for the first time like I was a part of a team in ministry.
Having had that initial experience, I decided to become a peer group coordinator myself. The focus of our groups has been learning how to more effectively communicate the gospel with a “Reformed Accent” to our diverse Floridian culture. Florida churches understand very well the need for our teaching and preaching to be both Biblically based and passionate. The communities in which our churches are located are growing at a rapid pace, and as a result, the majority of people living in our communities have lived here less than five years. There is no sense of heritage to tie people to our churches. Instead, we must strive to articulate the gospel in such a compelling way that people will choose to join our ministry.
As our groups have discussed this topic together, we realized that we need each other’s help. How do we articulate the gospel? How can we preach and teach in a way that reaches both head and heart? What does this look like in a place that is as culturally diverse as Florida? We have read several books together including Practicing Passion by Kenda Creasy Dean and The Shack by William Young. We have also attended conferences together such as The National Pastors’ Conference in San Diego, CA and The Irresistible Influence Conference in Little Rock, AR. Every time we have had a retreat or meeting or went away to a conference, I came back better prepared to do ministry.
Being a part of a peer group has been huge for me. We have had a lot of fun together, but always had long and heavy discussions on ministry and its challenges. I think our peer group has sustained me through some otherwise tough times in ministry, and I no longer feel as isolated or alone. So, having other people that I can relate to, share ideas and concerns with, and learn from has helped me tremendously in the first few years of my ministry. I very much recommend the right peer group for everyone (learn more here).
What experiences have you had with a pastors’ peer group? Where do you get support and encouragement for your work as a pastor?