by the Reverend Laurie Metzko, M. Div. 2015, Lexington Theological Seminary
EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post is submitted as part of the experience of Rev. Laurie Metzko as a member of the inaugural Ministry Life Choices Initiative Clergy Peer Group. This MLCI Clergy Peer Group was launched in January of 2016 as a way of creating intentional, supportive, peer-led space for recent LTS graduates to share ministry and life together. The six group participants and their facilitator have made covenant to journey together for 18 months, and will regularly offer reflections on their time together.
Journeying through life can be overwhelming. Especially when your journey takes an unexpected right turn and you find yourself exploring a new vocation. That has been my journey for the last six years. A journey of twists and turns that included seminary, stepping into part-time ministry positions while juggling a full-time secular job and family, and, finally, settling into ministry as an interim pastor.
I learned one thing very quickly – the importance and value of peer groups, especially clergy peer groups.
While in seminary at LTS, we were required to participate in a covenant group, one during each year of seminary. The group included several students, a faculty facilitator, and a clergy partner (someone currently serving a church). During our time together we not only shared valuable resources with one another, but also our successes and our concerns. These groups created the foundation for understanding the importance of connecting with others who share similar experiences. It never took many sessions for a covenant group to bond and for each of us to look forward to our time together.
Upon graduation from seminary I found myself and others continuing this important practice. Whether it is a chat on Skype or a meeting for coffee with those who live close by, my clergy peers continue to be a source of encouragement and support. Surrounding myself with those who’ve served in ministry for a while and those who are just beginning is one of the most important acts of self-care I have done. Our time spent together might be sharing ideas and resources for upcoming worship services or discussing pastoral care concerns. Other times, we celebrate the good we see God doing in our world. The most precious times are those spent just being me – not pastor, not bible study leader, not facilitator – just me. In those times there may be tears and most definitely there will be laughter.
It is no surprise then that when asked to participate in the Ministry Life Choice Initiative (MLCI) Clergy Peer Group I jumped at the opportunity. This initiative is beyond priceless and I believe a necessity for clergy. As clergy we believe in the importance of caring for one’s self and the importance of seeking advice for various life situations. We understand the importance of community. With that said, we can be the worst at caring for our self or seeking advice. We are focused on the care of others and on the daily tasks that ministry sends our way. But taking time to focus on us, on me, tends to take a back seat to all others. When we do this, we become less effect and less healthy with the passing of time. Therein lies the importance of peer groups. Who better to understand my circumstance than another minister!
I cannot imagine life without clergy peer groups. I believe they are a necessary component of self care that will enable me to beat the odds in ministry – the odds that say a majority of ordained clergy leave the ministry in their first five years. Clergy self care must be a weekly, even daily, practice. I cannot think of a better group to hold me accountable than my peers. I cannot think of a better way to beat the odds than to link arms with my peers and say, “we will, with the help of God.” I say….”Thanks be to God for my clergy peer groups!”
The Ministry Life Choices Initiative (MLCI) will assist those in years 1-5 of ministry with developing habits and practices for sustainable ministry. The relationship will span the first few years of theological education and the introductory years as a congregational minister. The MLCI is a ministry of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in partnership with Lexington Theological Seminary.
The MLCI blog series is designed to promote conversation surrounding issues related to clergy health and well-being. The blog seeks to include and incorporate writers from a wide variety of ministerial contexts, seminaries and demographics.