General CBF

Peer Learning Group … Ideas for getting started

Are you looking to join a peer learning group? Are you looking to connect with other ministers in your area? There are nearly 100 CBF peer learning groups across the country. Steve Graham (, who coordinates peer learning groups for CBF, can help connect you.


Have you found yourself convening a peer learning group? Do you know several ministers already and are looking to get started with regular meetings? Here are a few ideas for the practical part of convening.

You’ve got a group of people who are interested in being part of a peer learning group, but how do you get started? Pick a first meeting date when everyone who is interested can attend. Ask people to bring their calendars so you can determine what day, time and location work best for everyone. Also, ask people to bring ideas for what they would like to learn about in the group setting and/or specifically how they hope the group will enrich their professional life. This gives not just the convener of the group – but all group participants – an opportunity to hear everyone else’s expectations.

My peer learning group meets every month on the same day of the week at the same time. One time we move the meeting back 30 minutes to accommodate a member’s schedule, and in the next few meetings, group members were confused and arrived at all different times. People have busy schedules, so keep the meeting time and day consistent. Because we meet just once a month, we meet for 3 hours each time. As a group we decided on the structure of our monthly time together, and we try to stick with it. We begin with a meal (an hour) and then allow the rest of the time for more structured discussion, with each person having time to share and lead the conversation.

With various peer groups over the years, I’ve met in coffee shops, hotel meeting spaces, various restaurants and people’s homes. By far the most meaningful conversations have been the ones that occurred in someone’s home. Often the hustle and bustle of restaurants can be a distraction to discussions. And, then there’s always the practical hurdle of will they have a big enough table for all of us? And, can the person sitting on one end of the table hear the person on the other end when there’s a loud party nearby? There is something about breaking bread together that builds community. And there is also a powerful community building element to being on the giving and receiving ends of the spiritual practice of hospitality.

So, you’ve got the logistics figured out, but what does the group actually do? What’s the purpose? Again, ask all group members to bring their ideas. Try to avoid the popcorn consensus – where one person says “Let’s focus on …..” and everyone nods in agreement. This may seem like the fast and easy way to make a decision, but in my experience you end up with people being only half invested in the topic. Instead, go around person by person and let everyone share their thoughts on what they’d like to learn. This lets the group get to know one another a little better and is a good way to identify some common interests. Try to identify the one or two things that everyone around the table has in common. It doesn’t make sense for a group of youth ministers to talk about the best banana bread recipes. Or for that same group to talk about leading summer youth camps if only half the group members have this responsibility in their jobs. My peer learning groups consists of young, female ministers, and much of our discussions focus on the professional challenges and goals that are unique to women in the early part of their careers. We’ve found that we all have plenty of thoughts and experiences to share when it comes to professional development… and the energy we all have around this topic enriches our learning experience.

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