“You guys have been insanely awesome, and a good sounding board for this whole process. You have given me great ‘perspective’ through it all. I only hope I can return the favor someday!”
That’s what a friend of mine wrote in an email to the members of his peer learning group. He had been through a very tough stretch in his ministry and the monthly meetings with this group had been a constant source of encouragement, support, insight and prayer. The issue he had been dealing with was the kind that was difficult, if not impossible, to process with other staff or friends within his church. Without his peer group, he would have been on his own to struggle through the roller coaster ride of emotions and decision making that inevitably accompanies such circumstances. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the phrase “insanely awesome” before, but I think it’s a pretty good description of how he’s feeling about his group now that he’s on the other side of a tough situation at the church.
There is a growing body of research providing proof that pastor peer learning groups like Master’s Groups have a verifiable positive effect both for the people participating in the groups and their churches. In the recent report, “Sustaining Pastoral Excellence” (a study commissioned by the Lilly Endowment), the very first practice identified as a key commitment of pastors who are thriving in ministry is that they “participate in a structured learning community of peers.”
According to Dr. Penny Marler at the Samford Center for Pastoral Excellence, congregations whose pastors are part of a peer learning group exhibit the following attributes:
✓ They are more likely to be active and involved, engage the youth and have an increasing attendance, particularly if the group includes a trained facilitator and/or a curriculum.
✓ The longer their pastor has been in a peer learning group, the more likely the congregation is to be growing.
✓ They are characterized by a “culture of involvement” that includes
New members are engaged through service to church and community
Lay leaders rotate in volunteer roles and do not stay on the same committees/boards
Members are involved in the community
✓ Members are significantly more likely to see their congregation as a change agent in the community and to emphasize community service.
While I am encouraged by the way research is verifying the value of pastor peer learning groups like Master’s Groups, I get REALLY excited when I hear my friend finding real-life benefit from the group he’s been participating in for the past year! That’s ‘insanely awesome’!
Click here to find out more about CCN’s Master’s Groups.