By Emily Holladay
Throughout seminary, I heard about Peer Learning Groups and the value of connecting with fellow ministers on a regular basis. When I worked for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I wrote articles and blogs about successful peer groups throughout the CBF community.
No sooner than I accepted my position at Broadway, I e-mailed friends in town to find out if there was a peer group I could be a part of. I couldn’t wait to experience the comradeship and support I had heard, read, and written about for so long.
Fortunately, I got plugged in with a group of young ministers serving CBF churches in Louisville, whose friendship has surpassed my wildest expectations. Each month, we meet together over lunch for general conversation and a book discussion. Sitting in their company is often the highlight of my month, and I couldn’t imagine doing ministry without them.
Over the past 18 months, I have learned so much in community with these wonderful ministers. I know that I am a better minister and person because of them. Today, I wanted to pause and reflect on the top five life lessons I have learned from my peer group.
5. Ministry doesn’t happen overnight. Between the five people that I meet with regularly, we represent between 40-50 years of ministry, and surprisingly, none of us feel like we’ve “arrived.” Ok – maybe not so surprisingly.
I can’t speak for all of them, but I know I had these dreams that I would walk into church and immediately begin making a difference. Delusions. That immediate thumb print rarely happens in any career. But people rarely go into ministry so that they can arrange budgets and coordinator volunteers. People go into ministry so they can introduce others to the grace and love of Jesus.
My peer group helps me to see how I am making this happen even when I am bogged down in the details of ministry as work. And, they remind me that our ultimate dreams are never realized after a month, year, or 50 of ministry, and that’s what keeps us moving.
4. You can bounce back from disappointment. One of the best parts of peer group is talking strategically about what we are trying to accomplish in ministry – where we’ve had successes and what we need help with. Most of the time, someone has been there, done that, and they provide necessary tools for continuing to build the event or program into a success.
The majority of the time, when I come with something I need help with, it’s because I tried and whatever I did didn’t go so well the first time. My peer group helps me to rethink how I can move forward in the future, and never lets me focus on the past for too long.
3. Ministry is so rewarding. Inevitably during each meeting, someone will turn our conversation on its head and ask, “What’s been going well for everyone?” Sometimes it takes a minute, but most of the time, there’s someone who can immediately come up with a celebration.
Over a month of ministry, there are a number of things to celebrate. There are a number of ways to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve. There are a number of ways to make God’s love evident. My peer group reminds me to celebrate these moments and praise God for letting me be a part of this great work.
2. There is nothing better than a good laugh. In every career, there are moments and stories that you just have to laugh about. My peer group offers me the perspective and space to do just that. The moments when I laugh over my disappointments or the stories of my awkward, are also the moments when I feel most free.
Our peer group meetings are consistently replete with laughter. This is probably the reason I love communing with these friends so often.
1. I am not alone. Probably the most important gift my peer group has given me is the reminder that I am not alone. We are all walking this journey of ministry together, celebrating our joys and grieving our disappointments. Neither my pain nor my joy is unique to me, but it means so much more to have a group of people to laugh, cry, scream, and celebrate with. I am not alone in my pain or my job, and that makes all the difference.
Emily Holladay serves as the Associate Pastor to Children and Families at Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.