Intentional Community

As I write this, the March issue of the Record has been available for only a couple of weeks. In that time I have had more feedback about my article, Minding the Minister, than I have received for all the things I have ever written for public consumption combined. I hit on something significant: many ministers in our denomination are burning out.

This is a problem worthy of our attention. What is needed is focus and strategy. After consultation with our national board over the past year and a presentation to our annual general meeting at the beginning of March this year, I believe the Renewal Fellowship has both.

While renewal, in all of its facets, can be an overwhelming agenda, focusing on ministers is strategic. Their capacity and potential for renewal impacts congregations directly. Their spiritual health directly influences the spiritual health of their people. Their ability to model discipleship in their own lives gives leadership to their peers and their people.

Our strategy can be simply stated but will need much more than we alone can bring to the table. It needs the help of every part of our church. We need the help of our courts, our national offices, our laity, our theological schools and our ministers themselves. That is still not enough. Our strategy needs the prayers of all of us.

Our goal is to radically increase the number of our ministers who meet regularly with their peers in some form of intimate spiritual community. As a result, spiritual connection can replace isolation, spiritual growth can replace dryness, encouragement can replace despair, friendship can replace loneliness and participation in authentic, intimate and vulnerable community can replace guarded, defensive lives.

I believe renewal in ministers’ lives would be the model for congregations to experience this same kind of community. I believe this can be the spark that begins to spread renewal throughout our entire church.
So what is this strategy that can be simply stated but is so challenging to implement?

Encourage ministers to form a group if none currently exists. This could include anywhere from two to a dozen people. It could meet once or twice a month. It could be initiated by a simple invitation to gather for coffee. Our experience tells us that a personal invitation is the key.

In its first stage, the group may focus on sharing each other’s ministry journeys and praying for each other: their challenges, their congregations and their families. In later stages these communities will seek greater vulnerability, transparency and accountability in their spiritual, parental and congregational lives.

That’s where our work begins. Pray for us. Offer us whatever help you can. Open up existing groups to invite and welcome those not yet included.

We will work with any who wish to create or grow a group of ministers who meet as an intentional spiritual community.

Published in The Presbyterian Record on May 1, 2013.