New book on pastoral ministry

Nov 01, 2013 | Pastoral Excellence Network

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Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving by Bob Burns, Tasha Chapman, and Donald Guthrie (Downers Grove, IL: Praxis/InterVarsity Press, 2013).

In addition to telling the story and sharing the research of this Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Program, the Pastors’ Summits, this book provides a perspective and a current resource for pastors, clergy peer learning groups, and those who support pastors.

In responding to the central question, “What does it take to have fruitful ministry over the long haul?” the authors explore five themes for resilient, lifelong ministry: spiritual formation; self-care; emotional and cultural intelligence; marriage and family; leadership and management. Each chapter provides a discussion of the theme, shares the perspectives of participants in the Pastors’ Summits, and allows the reader or clergy group to explore the topic through the reflection, questions, and bibliographies provided.

This work comes out of the work with Pastors’ Summits that were organized by Burns, Chapman, and Guthrie, who were colleagues at Covenant Theological Seminary. They conducted much of their research in cooperation with Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

The authors have mined their own experiences and those of the participants so that the Pastors’ Summits can inform and transform some of our understandings of pastors’ lives and challenges. For example, Guthrie said he was surprised to discover how entrenched the “hero-leader” model of ministry can be for some pastors. “In the face of loneliness and even recognized need for collaboration and partnership support, so many pastors felt the need to just soldier on as kind of a lone wolf in ministry.”

Included in the book are a number of direct quotes from the pastors which illustrate the themes and also articulate the dilemmas and challenges that many pastors (and their spouses) identify in their lives and ministries. A pastor’s personal evaluation included in the book (that can be downloaded from their website) is a resource that individual clergy or clergy groups might find useful. It includes reflection questions on emotional life, intellectual life, physical life, sexuality, social/relational life, and spiritual life. By taking this personal assessment, clergy will have a richer understanding of the places of strength and challenge in their ministries. Moreover, members of a particular clergy group might find this personal assessment a good lead into meaningful collegial engagement on issues that matter to the personal and professional lives of the group members.

The Pastors’ Summits reinforced the critical role peer cohorts can play in helping pastors receive the collegial support, learning, and spiritual encouragement they need. We recommend this book to others in the Pastoral Excellence Network. The book includes an appendix with best practices for forming peer cohorts and provides ample jumping-off points for discussion by a clergy peer group. It can also be of value to church boards and others who want to better understand how to help sustain their pastors in ministry.

For more information about the book and related resources, visit the Resilient ministry website.

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