by Barb Parker
Most of us are well aware – the church of today is a far cry from the church that was and, hopefully, what it is becoming.
Regardless of the horizon, the reality of the present is that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is comprised of a growing number of small congregations that are often served by part-time/bi-vocational pastoral leadership. For a variety of reasons, many of our congregations are often unable to call and keep effective pastoral leadership to guide the congregation in carrying out Christ’s mission in the world. Pastors in all kinds of settings (full-time, part time, congregations large and small) often express feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Keeping all this in mind and with foresight to the future, the Partners in Ministry Program was created to support pastoral ministry. This is its stated goal:
To strengthen the life and witness of congregations by helping to nurture effective pastoral leadership and to equip participating pastors for lifetimes of faithful service as pastors within the Presbyterian Church (USA).
individual mentoring, as needed
opportunities for peer sharing/support/discussion
learning experiences determined by pastor participants
Here’s How It Works
Partners in Ministry (PIM) is funded through an endowment at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. Currently it is in partnership with Whitewater Valley Presbytery, although we hope to expand in the future to include the other two presbyteries in Indiana – Ohio Valley and Wabash Valley presbyteries.
Two small pastor groups meet monthly over lunch or brunch, provided by the program. One group meets in the Ft. Wayne/ Decatur area in the northeast part of the state. The other group is comprised of pastors from Indianapolis and west. I also meet with two pastors on an individual basis.
Both groups continue to grow in number, and it is my hope that we will begin to meet more often. PIM is also looking down the road at a pastor/family seminar/fellowship weekend, but that can be the topic of some future blog!
What We’re Becoming
As I look back over the past year, the pastor participants and I are grateful for the foresight of those who created the idea of PIM. Members of both groups have expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to be together with colleagues in a safe and confidential setting in which they can express personal joys and concerns, honestly share whatever is on their minds and hearts, ask questions and learn from each other, and enjoy having fellowship and fun with fellow pastors.
What has been most energizing? It has been terribly exciting to watch the groups gel with each other – even as new people join the group. Our groups include some who have been wounded in previous calls. What joy to watch them as they begin to engage openly and honestly with colleagues.
I have learned a great deal over the course of the past year. I’ve learned that all these folks are dedicated to giving their best, regardless of their position. They all have a strong sense of call and are ever so faithful. Sometimes, it takes just a kernel of an idea, put out by any one of us in the group, to nurture a fantastic and doable idea that can be built into something quite extraordinary in the life of the congregations, who seek to be the hands and feet of Christ in their communities.
Jesus gathered his disciples around him and then sent them out into the community in pairs. Yet, to be a pastor in today’s church so often means ministering in a lonely and isolated environment. PIM seeks to support and nurture pastoral leadership as we move into the church that is becoming.
Barb Parker wears many hats: wife, mother and grandmother … teacher, pastor and now part-time Director of the Partners in Ministry Program. She pastored an incredible congregation (Wheatland Presbyterian in Plainfield, IL) for 9 years and served on COM for 6 years. When she next finds a few moments, she’s going to start learning to play her new banjo.