Book resources

These books offer further help in thinking about the structure and content of clergy peer learning groups:

Anam cara: Collegial clergy communitiesby Mahan Siler

There are various approaches to clergy peer learning groups. This particular approach of “collegial clergy communities” focuses the group on the interrelated practices of being in community, reflecting upon and discerning the movement of God, collaborating together around each member’s practice of leadership, and spiritual practices. Written by Mahan Siler, who has also consulted with a few Sustaining Pastoral Excellence clergy groups, this guide of 39 pages provides a brief overall perspective on the need and purposes of the group, a sample covenanting retreat design, and a model for case presentation. This guide is helpful for re-orienting existing clergy groups, helping new groups get started, and as a resource to clergy group facilitators (who can also seek training in this approach through CareNet).

The art of convening: Authentic engagement in meetings, gatherings, and conversations, by Craig and Patricia Neal

This book describes a system of convening that includes nine principles and practices for conversation. These aspects provide a model facilitators might use to assess the life of a peer learning group.

The contemplative pastor: Returning to the art of spiritual direction, by Eugene Peterson

Peterson, who has been gaining a growing reputation as a "pastor's pastor", speaks words of wisdom and refreshment for pastors caught in the busy-ness of preaching, teaching, and "running the church". Chapters include poetic reflections on the Beatitudes, advice on spiritual direction "between Sundays", and the language of prayer.

Conversations in Ministry book series, (Academy of parish clergy)

The Conversations in Ministry book series to deals with issues which confront clergy in ministry today. Written by and for practicing clergy, each book is brief and focused (under 100 pages), and is designed to encourage reflection and conversation among clergy. The first two titles in the series are Clergy table talk: Eavesdropping on ministry issues in the 21st century by Kent Ira Groff and Wind and whirlwind: Being a pastor in a storm of change by David Moffett-Moore.

Fierce conversations: Achieving success at work and in life one conversation at a time, by Susan Scott

A believer in positive change through powerful communication, author Susan Scott says we need to transform everyday conversations by learning to employ effective ways to get the message across. The book includes exercises and tools to lead the reader through “Seven Principles of Fierce Conversations.”

God's potters: Pastoral leadership and the shaping of congregationsby Jackson W. Carroll

Carroll draws on data to examine the state of Protestant and Catholic clergy at the beginning of the 21st century. He addresses the changing roles of clergy and laypeople, the future of women in ministry, and the shifting supply of clergy, and he offers strategies for cultivating excellence in ministry.

A hidden wholeness: The journey toward an undivided life, by Parker J. Palmer

Palmer describes the ways in which "circles of trust" support peer group commitments. He provides a helpful framework, along with poetry, exercises and stories for thinking about group dynamics.

Know your story and lead with it: The power of narrative in clergy leadership, by Richard L. Hester and Kelli Walker-Jones

The authors help clergy explore and articulate their stories and then use these stories as a resource for leadership. The book grows out of the authors' work with clergy peer groups in the Lilly-funded Sustaining Pastoral Excellence project.

Leaders who last: Sustaining yourself and your ministry, by Margaret J. Marcuson

Margaret Marcuson introduces the notion of “sustainable ministry,” which trains and empowers pastors to focus on their inner resources for proactive leadership instead of trying harder to help, fix or change others.  Leaders Who Last draws upon the author’s own pastoral experience and as well as significant analysis of leadership in both families and churches over generations. Interviews with current church leaders punctuate chapters on stress, spiritual practice, church triangles, relationships, self-awareness, money, and creating a climate where true change can take place.

The pastor: A memoir, by Eugene H. Peterson

Through the story of the planting of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, MD, the author challenges conventional wisdom regarding church marketing, mega pastors, and the church’s relationship to consumerism to present a simple, faith-based description of what being a minister means today. In the end, Peterson discovers that being a pastor boils down to “paying attention and calling attention to ‘what is going on now’ between men and women, with each other and with God.”

Preparing the pastors we need: Reclaiming the congregation's role in training clergy, by George Mason

Drawing on his own and others’ experience in the Lilly Endowment’s Transition into Ministry initiative, Mason provides a guidebook for those considering the development of a pastoral residency program for recent seminary graduates in a congregation. He covers everything from assessing readiness, to building the program, recruiting residents, implementing and sustaining the program, and evaluating effectiveness.

Pursuing pastoral excellence: Pathways to fruitful leadership, by Paul E Hopkins

Hopkins explores the stories of seven pastors to show pathways to leadership--and to illustrate practices that lead to clergy burnout.

Resurrecting excellence: Shaping faithful Christian ministry, by Gregory L. Jones and Kevin R. Armstrong

This book provides the theological basis for exploring pastoral excellence. The authors focus on the practices of living as faithful disciples and the ministries of pastors, lay leaders, and congregations that embody "a more excellent way."

Sabbath in the city: Sustaining urban pastoral excellence, by Bryan P Stone and Claire E. Wolfteich

The authors identify challenges that face urban pastors and practices that foster excellence in urban ministry, including cultivating holy friendships.

So much better: How thousands of pastors help each other thrive, by the SPE Excellence Peer Learning Project

Written collaboratively by eleven leaders of Sustaining Pastoral Excellence programs, this book explores the power of clergy peer learning through the stories of seven different peer group models. It includes useful information about peer group recruitment, leadership, content, and structure for those looking to launch new clergy groups.

Strengthening the soul of your leadership: Seeking God in the crucible of ministry, by Ruth Haley Barton

Starting with the premise that maintaining a life-giving connection with God is the best choice pastors can make for themselves and those they lead, Ruth Haley Barton explores what happens when spiritual leaders lose track of their souls. Weaving together contemporary illustrations with insight from the life of Moses, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership explores topics such as responding to the dynamics of calling, facing the loneliness of leadership, leading from your authentic self, cultivating spiritual community, re-envisioning the promised land, and discerning God's will together.  Each chapter includes a spiritual practice.

This odd and wondrous calling: The public and private lives of two ministers, by Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver

Two people still pastoring reflect honestly here on both the joys and the challenges of their vocation, moving from comedy to pathos, story to theology, scripture to contemporary culture. This book invites pastors to reflect on and share stories from their own experience in ministry.