By Fran Patterson
On Friday morning during the 2016 CBF General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C., 60 members and conveners of CBF Peer Learning Groups gathered together for breakfast and good conversation. Even for a person like me who is allergic to anything scheduled before 11 a.m., this was time well spent.
Folks from Texas to North Carolina and D.C. to Florida sat around tables and told stories about their experiences with their PLGs. We discussed resources and the difficulties of scheduling meetings. The theme I heard most clearly during our time around the table was support — how important it is to have a group of peers who understand the joys and challenges of ministry — a safe place to vent, celebrate and ask hard questions.
Our guest speakers were members of the PLG called “Preacher Camp”. Every August for the past 13 years, Don, Russ, Dorisanne, John, Jim and Amy spend a week together planning out the lectionary texts for the coming year. Each person is assigned a particular season. They study in advance and come to the group with ideas and questions. The morning is dedicated to intense study, followed by lunch and afternoon rest and recreation. In the evenings, they preach for each other.
About 5 years ago, they added a new twist to their week…they included their families. Preacher Camp has become more than a week of study together for these ministers, it was become a great big family! These PLG members travel to each others’ family events and celebrations. They have also supported each other though divorce, cancer and family deaths. They discuss everything from “the Prophets to parenting.”
A private Facebook page, other social media and a Lenten Google Chat check-in session help keep them connected throughout the year. The group shared with us that they are fortunate to have found each other and are grateful for the benefits, both personal and professional, that they have received.
While not all PLGs take this approach to gathering together, all of the groups offer a safe space to come together for mutual support in ministry, and this annual gathering only begins to bring together the network and family that is CBF Peer Learning Groups.
If you are interested in learning more about CBF Peer Learning Groups, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email email@example.com. You can also find more information at www.cbf.net/peer-learning-groups/.