Pastoral excellence begins with the conviction that leading a community of faith requires being shaped by one. Peer learning communities provide opportunities to engage in spiritual and theological practices and reflections, to discover resources and strategies for honing pastoral leadership skills, and to form holy friendships and receive mutual support.
The composition of the peer group is important, but not according to the typical measures. Research on peer learning groups shows that groups of all different shapes and sizes can be successful, but effective groups usually have a form of intentional commitment between participants, a strong and prepared facilitator, and a structure that offers enough space for play and creativity.
Pastors hold a unique place within church communities. Parishioners look to them as exemplars of stability and strength and often entrust to them confidential information. This vital part of ministry can exact a personal toll. Pastors can feel as if they are isolated in a crowd, with little space to reflect about their ministries, few resources to explore their vocations, and limited opportunities to foster meaningful, life-giving friendships.
Peer learning groups give pastors a unique space to attend to these essential parts of their lives and are the single most powerful way to support pastoral excellence.
The following questions are designed to help you think about those characteristics as you start and organize a peer learning community.