Leading scholars and national surveys consistently rank pastoral ministry as one of the most difficult and stress-filled careers in America. Pastors are experiencing mental and physical health breakdowns at a high rate. They are depressed. Confused. Exhausted. Scared. Alone. A pastor often lives his life in public isolation, caring for and befriending many with no one to care for or befriend him. St. Paul made it clear that leading God’s people is tough and isn’t to be done alone.
And yet we feel alone. We’ve accomplished more than we thought possible and still wonder if there’s more. Even after a great season of ministry, we wonder: Is this all there is? What’s next? What if this is as good as it gets? Is this what I should be doing? Can I make it another 30 years? And, if so, do I really want to?
The Lilly Endowment spent $84 million over 10 years to allow 63 Protestant and Catholic organizations to study what practices are necessary for pastors to sustain excellence over a lifetime of ministry. They found the single-most important practice, across every organization, was participation in a structured learning community of peers. These groups not only benefit the pastor, but also his congregation: Pastors in formal peer groups lead congregations that serve the church, reach out to others, and grow at higher rates than churches with pastors that don’t participate in peer groups.
The Leaders Collective facilitates lead pastor cohorts that spend two years considering the characteristics necessary to promote healthy, sustainable ministry. These cohorts of six pastors—all in similar places of life and ministry— will meet together once a quarter for two years to consider these characteristics together through unique experiences, time with recognized experts in the field, and time building into one another the encouragement we all need to sustain fruitful ministry.
These characteristics are the result of a seven-year study on resilient pastoral ministry lead by Covenant Seminary in partnership with Reformed Theological Seminary and Westminster Seminary and funded by the Lilly Endowment. The results of that study are detailed in the book Resilient Ministry.