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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ask the Matriarch: loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength

Today's questioner asks "Who disciples the pastor?"
What have you found that works for you - so that you are also being fed and not always doing the feeding.

earthchick offers three recommendations:
I have found three things that have helped me in receiving spiritual nurture and guidance. The first is a spiritual director. The concept of spiritual direction is not something very familiar in my tradition (Baptist), but I have found it to be an invaluable part of my own spiritual growth. I view my spiritual director as my pastor. I do not see her as often as I would like to, but she is always a phone call away. The second resource is spiritual friendship and group spiritual direction. Over the last several years I have been involved in two different groups of women ministers who gather regularly to listen to each other and provide spiritually-based feedback and guidance. None of us is elevated as the head of the group, we simply rely on the group as a whole to lead, disciple, encourage, and support. The third resource that has helped me a huge amount in the last year would probably not be considered Christian discipleship by some, but for me it has been an essential part of my spiritual life, and that has been my yoga practice. My yoga teacher, though not Christian, has provided a kind of spiritual nurture for me that I wasn't finding regularly elsewhere. The things she says in leading the class are consistent with my own Christian understanding, and each week I feel more spiritually challenged and refreshed than I do almost anywhere else. If I were mentoring a young pastor just starting out in ministry, I would suggest that she find a spiritual director if possible, that she find or create a group of colleagues willing to covenant together in spiritual friendship and direction, and that she also be open to avenues beyond the traditional Christian church structures for receiving spiritual guidance.

Chrysanne says:
The two practices that I have found that best shape and disciple me as a pastor are working with a Spiritual Director and participating in an accountability group

Rector in Hawai'i writes about how she has developed strategies for pastoral well-being:
I go into retreat twice a year -- at the convent of St Margaret's in Boston, where my spiritual director is superior of the order. I also talk with her at least once a month.

I keep my weekly Sabbath day. If I can't, I find another day to "make up" for the Sabbath I lost. I do non-church stuff that day -- like reading mysteries or watching videos or going to local tourist attractions -- like the zoo or aquarium or the beach...

I have an advisory committee that meets weekly and functions as my sounding board along with staying on top of parish activities and issues.

We have a Rector's Warden, which means I get to appoint that person. It's her job to take care of the rector and act as her advocate. I trust that person to tell me when I'm getting tired or cranky or working too hard.

I'm not directly involved in every ministry. I trust parishioners to do what they do best or are interested in with a little guidance. If problems arise, I might step in. But more likely I'll have our associate or a parish leader step in first.

Long time Rector also recommends a spiritual director:
I have found it important to my growth and my ability to look to my blindspots to have always a spiritual director. I meet monthly with that person as a check in. It has been necessary for me that the director have no connection with the congregation - but others may have different experiences with this.

What do you do to maintain yourself - mind, body, spirit, emotions, soul?


  1. Although I am in seminary, preparing for ministry, spiritual direction has been part of my life for several years now. Spiritual health and formation are valued at the seminary and I have a spiritual director I meet with monthly. As an older student, I also have peers my own age that help me to keep things in perspective.

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  3. I would echo the need for an support group and/or accountability group. The women that I get to see (almost every month) are such a source of encouragement to me. Their feedback helps me figure out where my blind spots are. It is also important because I do not work with them. It's a matter of perspective.

    I also try, at least quarterly, to go on silent retreat. There's a retreat center near us and I take advantage of it! In fact, I"m going today!

    I'm still looking for a spiritual director. I don't need one that will decide to give me homework (I stopped going to one who made it seem like a "class" - - not what a seminarian needs!)


  4. My therapist is a former catholic priest, so our sessions often end up being a therapy/spir dir hybrid, which works for me.

    I also have a monthly clergy group (which shares a coach) that is within my local denominational area, and a smaller group of carefully chosen pastoral colleagues who meet weekly.

    Then there are the raucous, fun, interfaith 'clergy babes' I have lunch with once a month.

    I find that solitary spiritual retreat is not as helpful to me in this stage of my life, but I know that others find it very nurturing, and I don't rule it out as something I will do another time. As a solo pastor, my work can be very isolating, so I crave the company of others. If I was in a different call where I was surrounded by people all the time I might want to go off by myself more often.

  5. Echoes of what others have said...spiritual direction, yoga, peer groups, my Soul Sisters feed me in wonderful ways and the fact that I am part of a team ministry is also useful. Also spiritual disciplines...I do better when I have a routine of some sort with regular prayer, journaling, etc. when I don't have these things in place to sustain me, I tend to falter.

  6. Great ideas! I had a spiritual director who was also a Jungian therapist. She helped me look at what my dreams were telling me about my spiritual health. Also ditto the comments about physical health as part of keep oneself "fed"

  7. Amen and ditto to all of the above: and I read, and read, and read, and read. There are people with whom I can share what I've read...some are parishioners, some aren't.

  8. Read- yes - and also places like RGBPs and other web sites where people offer food for the journey.

  9. I find that regular continuing education events are very important for my own sense of renewal. I try very hard to attend at least one significant educational event a year, and have made it a tradition to join a group of close friends from seminary at many of those events. Good friends + good learning = happy pastor!

    I am trying to be more disciplined, as well, about spending half a day each week in study and reading.

  10. Keeping that Sabbath day makes a huge difference in my life. Mine is Friday, and I am probably successful in keeping it 40+ weeks of the year. If I can't, due to church obligations/necessities, I make it up to myself somehow. I didn't do that at first, and it drove both me and my family distracted!


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