By Laura Stephens-Reed
Do you have a ministry colleague who needs a peer learning group — research has shown, all clergy do —but is hesitant about joining or starting a PLG? Below is a list of responses to the most frequently-asserted “buts.” Please pass it on!
What does a peer learning group do?
In PLGs ministers gather to support each other, share resources, and learn together. Participants are given space to engage in honest discussion about ministry celebrations and challenges with colleagues who understand the clergy life. PLG members grow in their ability to live into their call as they equip one another.
How do I know if I need a peer learning group?
If you are experiencing loneliness in ministry, running out of ideas for your sermons/programs, facing difficult dynamics in your context, or interested in pursuing a particular study focus or spiritual practice with a cohort of colleagues, you are a great candidate for a peer learning group.
How much paperwork is involved in convening or participating in a peer learning group?
Not much at all! CBF offers each peer learning group $500/year to offset the costs of study materials, meals, and other necessary resources. To receive this funding, the PLG convener must submit a brief proposal form and a summary of each gathering. PLG members must submit a short member information form annually. (All forms are available digitally.)
What if I’m not sure how to lead a peer learning group – or even if I want to lead one?
CBF peer learning group staff is available to resource and support you every step of the way. In addition to one-on-one assistance, conveners have access to PLG best practices, a list of books that other groups have found helpful, a monthly newsletter, and a starter kit so that your PLG doesn’t have to be created from scratch.
How might I find an existing peer learning group?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get connected to the PLG Regional Director for your area. The Regional Director will help you explore your options.
Whom can I invite to join my peer learning group?
PLGs have a lot of leeway when it comes to participants. Some groups are comprised solely of Baptists, while others are ecumenical. Some are centered on a particular ministry position or demographic, while others are designed around interest in a particular study topic. Some are made up of ministers from the same geographical area, while others have members that are geographically scattered and meet online.
What if I don’t have time to join or create a peer learning group?
Studies have shown that peer learning groups are a significant deterrent to clergy burnout. How can you afford not to make time for a process and a people who will infuse health into your ministry, and by extension, your setting?
Laura Stephens-Reed is Regional Director for CBF peer learning groups in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. She is also a clergy coach, interim minister and retreat leader.