Completing the arc of ministry well

Oct 03, 2013 | Pastoral Excellence Network

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The Pastoral Excellence Network (PEN) is guided by careful attention to the total arc of ministry from attending seminary through first call, mid-career, and approaching retirement.

There is a growing recognition that when clergy do not pay sufficient attention to the culminating chapter of their ministry before retirement that there are lingering implications for the clergy person, the congregation, and for their successor.

In partnership with the Metro Washington, DC, Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lawrence Peers, Director of Learning of the Pastoral Excellence Network, recently led a “Crafting the Culminating Chapter of Your Ministry” retreat for clergy planning retirement in ten years or less. Pastors from three ELCA synods attended the retreat in St. Michael’s, MD.

Through a series of presentations, one-on-one coaching, prayerful reflection, and small group sessions, participants were guided to embrace and intentionally craft this chapter of their ministry. Some of the discerning questions woven through the three-day retreat were:

• Is there a chapter of ministry left for me in this place?
• What is my call for this season of ministry?
• What is not my call?
• What is the legacy I want to leave?
• What are the “soul signals” and promptings of the Spirit that I have put on hold for too long?
• What do I need to “retire” now in order to approach retirement with more wholeness?

Of course, clergy worry about when and how to begin talking about their retirement with their current congregation. Peers pointed out that the mythology of being a “lame duck” can often be a self-fulfilling prophecy if one does not develop and discern individually and with one’s leadership a focus for this period. Participants began to realize that this can be a fulfilling and collaborative time of ministry.

This type of retreat is one of the strategies that PEN is using to partner with other organizations to launch new clergy groups. Indeed, the camaraderie that clergy found with one another at this retreat has led to new clergy groups, which plan to gather for on-going support, learning, and accountability as they make this journey—not alone, but with colleagues.

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