--By Susan Moudry, Director of Clergy Excellence--
Clergy Communities of Practice will be gearing up all around the Western Pennsylvania Conference beginning in January, 2017. Our hope is to have eight groups meeting during the first year, with potential for expansion in the future. We are excited to introduce this new initiative that has already been more than a year in the making.
What is a clergy community of practice? Basically, they are a type of covenant group meant to support the development of Christian leaders by encouraging pastors who wish to get to the next place in their ministry. They focus on engagement with peers and help to reverse trends of isolation among clergy. Meetings invite participants to share in prayer and fellowship, as well as a time of learning and application. Crucially, the emphasis in these groups is on bringing learning into practice, not simply building up knowledge.
Typically a group will be made up of 8-10 clergy organized geographically, with eight different host sites spread across the Conference in the first year. Meetings will last about 4 hours and will include a meal. Each meeting will be led by a facilitator, who invites conversation and asks questions rather than acting as an expert. These facilitators will be other clergy peers who have received special training about this particular role and format.
Clergy Communities of Practice are being widely used across our Connection, as well as across the wider church. They have a proven track record when used over the long haul, resulting in, among other things, the cultivation of healthier, engaged, pastoral leaders and often the growth of a congregation. In their best forms, research shows these groups can be a lifeline for pastors, a place for refreshment, renewal and encouragement in their call to ministry. This is not really a surprise though, as we view these groups through a Biblical lens: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another…” (Heb 10:24-25)
While you may think this sounds wearily like “programs” that have been rolled out in the past, we believe it really is a fresh take on a needed model. For example, the L3 Incubator groups of the past (some of which are still in existence) incorporated a more top-down approach, with expansion happening through leadership of superintendents. Incubator groups also used a modified curriculum that came directly from Discipleship Ministries. While Clergy Communities of Practice will be unified in approach and study across the Conference, they will begin by being facilitated by peers and the education will largely be driven by the pastors' perceived needs and the group’s individual covenant.
Your Cabinet and Conference Staff are excited to introduce this new initiative to Western PA and pray together that it will help us in our mission of making disciples in the local church.
Keep your eyes and ears open for more information about how you can participate in a Clergy Community of Practice. Invitations and applications will go out in November. For more information about this opportunity, email email@example.com.