Breathe deeply. Summer is coming to a close.
For some of us, the deep breaths remind us that we have survived the holy chaos of kids out of school, camps, VBS, and trips disguised as vacations. For others of us, the deep breaths center us as we look ahead to the sprint of the program year kick-off, stewardship season, and Advent planning. No matter what your mindfulness means, though, almost all of us are experiencing a turning point in the year.
For that reason, it’s a great time to think about starting a peer learning group. Ministers who have not had head or schedule space for one more commitment can now think about adding one. Clergy who feel daunted by their calendar for the coming months realize that they will need collegial space to bounce ideas and find emotional and spiritual sustenance.
Here’s what you need to know about starting a peer learning group:
It is simple. Gather at least four fellow ministers to discuss what your needs for professional development and personal support are. Create a few objectives for your PLG, some general strategies for meeting them, and a meeting schedule.
You can shape the group to meet the members’ needs. Would you like to create a PLG that incorporates people who live in different geographical areas, such as some of your classmates from seminary? No problem! You can conduct your gatherings via an online service such as Skype or Zoom, or you can meet less frequently in person for longer periods of time. Are there no other CBF ministers in your area? You’re welcome to form an ecumenical group. Would you like to study the writings of an obscure desert monk? You can make your PLG’s focus as lasered-in or as broad as would be helpful to you.
You’ll have help. CBF has staff to help connect you with potential group members, give you suggestions of resources to discuss, and troubleshoot any issues. There are regional directors who are your direct contacts, and Ruth Perkins Lee and Dihanne Moore oversee all PLGs at the CBF Global offices in Decatur. Additionally, if you fill out the group proposal and grant form here, CBF will consider a funding request of up to $500 per group, per year. This money can be used for lunches, books, speaker honoraria, registration fees for an event that your PLG attends together, retreat location rental, and more.
You won’t regret it. Many clergy credit PLGs as saving their ministries and sometimes even their lives. In these spaces ministers connect with people who “get it,” who encourage and gently challenge one another, who learn together, who laugh and cry together.