New book: "So much better: How thousands of pastors help each other thrive"

Apr 09, 2013 | Pastoral Excellence Network

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What difference does regular participation in a peer learning group make in the lives and ministries of pastors? Answers to this important question sit at the center of a new book published as part of The Columbia Partnership Leadership Series with Chalice Press—So Much Better. Written collaboratively by eleven leaders of Sustaining Pastoral Excellence programs, this new book explores the power of clergy peer learning through the stories of seven different peer group models. It pulls together testimony from pastors themselves, their families, and church members about the impact intentional peer learning has on sustaining excellence in ministry and on equipping congregations to thrive in a rapidly changing culture. It includes useful information about peer group recruitment, leadership, content, and structure for those looking to launch new clergy groups. Practical advice is also offered about the cost, sustainability and evaluation of peer groups.

Chapters in So Much Better highlight the transforming power of “holy friendships” among clergy; the importance of “radical agency” as pastors are encouraged and equipped to take responsibility for their own learning; the value of narrative methods, story-telling, and deep, disciplined listening; and the development of a group covenant which incorporate both personal formation goals and the group’s commitments and activities. One chapter speaks of the praxis process of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation as African-American pastors travel to Africa and reflect together on their understandings of service, justice, leadership, and practices of self-care. Another chapter reveals how the “green spaces” of peer learning groups have become a denomination-wide emphasis, and another how they have become an integral part of a seminary’s Doctor of Ministry degree program. In the last chapter, connections are also drawn between what the authors have learned and some other studies of professional formation and leadership. Finally, and of ultimate importance, the authors explore where God is in the midst of pastoral peer learning.

So Much Better authors represent a variety of denominational affiliations and church-related institutions. Members of The Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Peer Learning Project are Penny Long Marler, D. Bruce Roberts, Janet Maykus, James Bowers, Larry Dill, Brenda K. Harewood, Richard Hester, Sheila Kirton-Robbins, Marianne LaBarre, Lis Van Harten and Kelli Walker-Jones. The forward of the book is written by Craig Dykstra and John Wimmer of the Lilly Endowment. So Much Better is published as part of The Columbia Partnership Leadership Series with Chalice Press.

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