By Fran Patterson
CBF Peer Learning Groups come in all shapes and sizes…or maybe I should say they are made up of all different ministry groups and sizes. Some group members live in the same city and meet monthly. Some group members are scattered about their state, meet monthly by Skype, and in person a couple of times a year. Whatever the case, the beauty of a CBF Peer Learning Group is that it is crafted to meet the needs of the people in the group.
A great example of a well-crafted, productive, and time-tested PLG is the Neighborhood. Group members include Charlie Johnson, Kyle Childress, Ray Vickrey, Joe Phelps, Nathan Stone and Larry Bethune. These friends began their CBF Peer Learning Group in the fall of 1989, long before there was actually such a thing as CBF, much less a CBF PLG!
This group of Senior Pastors meets twice a year. In the beginning, they met for a two-day retreat, but over the years extended it to five days. Their meeting places vary but are usually at the home of one of the members.
Talking with Charlie and Kyle about their retreats with the Neighborhood is always an entertaining and inspirational conversation. I can’t reveal some of the most entertaining parts. Just let me say that they really enjoy being together! Many times they are gathered around an open fire or on a porch, sharing stories and trying to solve the problems of the world. One tradition that they have is to watch the movie The Big Lebowski each time they meet. The movie is about an LA slacker and avid bowler who gets mixed up in a case of mistaken identity. His ambition in life is to “abide.” The driven, self-motivated men of the Neighborhood continue to learn the meaning of slowing down from this movie. When they are together, Kyle says they are learning to abide with God and with themselves.
Book discussions, deep theological debates, and time for prayer are important to this group, but the chance to debrief about family, personal struggles, and ministry are equally important. Because they have been together for over 25 years, they now face the transition of aging and what that will mean to their group gatherings.
I am inspired by this Peer Learning Group, not only because of my respect for each of them and their ministries, but because of their love and care for each other. They have supported each other through sickness, job transitions, personal loss, and have rejoiced as they share times of happiness together. They keep up with each other throughout the year, attend conferences together, and preach and lead retreats at each other’s churches.
Thank you, members of the Neighborhood, for your good example of caring for one another and learning from one another!
Fran Patterson is Regional Director of Peer Learning Groups in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. She has also served as Minister to Youth at Broadway Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, for over twenty years.