I went to homecoming at William Penn University this past weekend and got together with a bunch of my fraternity brothers. We were celebrating the anniversary of the founding of our frat at good old Willie P … a bunch of old guys knocking back a few pints of loud mouth, telling lies and laughing like fools; what could possibly go wrong, right? As the weekend wound down and everyone started to leave I was struck with how important are those old friends to me, my best friends. It was a chance to be myself and unload some of the stuff on my heart but it was also an opportunity to listen and maybe share a hug with a guy talking about the challenges that 40 years of life since those college days have brought his way. It was an amazing, wonderful, heart-warming and energizing weekend … simply AWESOME!! So (in an uncomfortably weak segue to my point) …
Pastors need that same kind of venue and experience. To have the opportunity to share a problem, listen to a colleague as she or he struggles with a troubling issue in ministry, wrestle with that week’s Gospel lesson, and work toward achieving some measure of excellence in our ministries, is exactly the function of the Covenant Communities for Pastoral Excellence – CCPE groups which are now up and rolling and beginning a new season in many areas of the Iowa Conference.
Acting as a very helpful counterbalance to the risks and demands of isolation and burnout, the CCPE groups are designed to help clergy sort out solutions to the challenges of ministry, enhance growth, develop meaningful and supportive collegial relationships and (here’s that word again) work toward excellence in ministry.
I read these words on another conference’s website: “Pastoral excellence is a way of life marked by character, competence and constancy and is practiced in community.” The Iowa Conference CCPE groups provide exactly that kind of community. And, for whatever its worth, I think excellent pastors just might create excellent churches, and the congregations served by the pastors of the Iowa Conference certainly deserve no less.
I think pastors often come to ministry with high hopes and dreams only to find that they are lightning rods for all kinds of negativity and criticism. Through our CCPE groups, pastors new to the conference can find support and guidance and our more experienced pastors will find opportunities to sharpen their skills and share their gifts. In addition to emotional and spiritual support, group members can give much-need feedback and criticism. My experience in these clergy covenant groups has taught me, nurtured me, supported me and pushed me to be accountable to a process and connectivity to colleagues and has led me to be a much more joyful and hopefully somehow more effective pastor here in Reinbeck.
The CCPE groups meet monthly- For more information or to find a CCPE group in your area, contact an ACM or visit the Iowa Conference website and click on the “Opportunities” tab at http://www.ucciaconf.org/opportunities/pastoral-excellence/support-accountability-and-growth.
—Rev. Joel Love
Iowa Conference Board of Director and
Pastor of Union Congregational UCC, Reinbeck