Promoting Spiritual Vitality in Pastors

“Weekly, I am studying the Scriptures, praying, and having conversations about spiritual life. But sometimes I feel like I am doing these things mostly for others. Focusing on my own life with God is a shift in pattern that’s refreshing me in places that now seem to have become parched.”

This comment came from one of the participants in the Spiritual Vitality in Pastors pilot project involving 16 pastors from across Canada and the United States.

Another participant, Ron Hosmar, said, “The retreat allowed all who are in the project to see each other face to face and build relationships. We got a sense that we are not alone in our thoughts, struggles, joys, and journey in ministry.”

The January retreat held in Comfort, Texas, provided a concentrated and spacious time in which a variety of practices and experiences came together for participating pastors.

Prior to the retreat, each pastor had engaged in vocational assessments, conversations with a professional coach, and initial Skype visits with a four-person cohort.

The retreat provided an arena in which “threads” could be identified that ran through these various activities and set the stage for additional practices to be engaged during the coming year.

Since the retreat, the pastors have identified a spiritual director and engaged in conversation with these spiritual directors about their own lives with God.

Three ministries partnered to develop this project, 50 percent of which is funded through a grant from the Pastoral Excellence Network, which in turn receives funding from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Sustaining Pastoral Excellence, Faith Formation, and Pastor Church Resources have contributed funding, staff time, and creativity to develop and implement what is hoped will provide important data for the spiritual flourishing of pastors going forward.

To some this project might seem unusual. One might expect that pastors would need to be experts on their own spiritual formation in order to provide leadership in spiritual formation for the congregations they serve.

But pastors say that, in attending to the various functions and relationships of ministry, there is often not enough attention given to understanding the dynamics of spiritual formation for self during preparation for ministry.

The Spiritual Vitality in Pastors pilot project is intended to address this deficiency.
A second retreat in Comfort is planned for next January, at which time the learnings of this pilot project will be more clearly identified.

In the meantime, 16 pastors are paying attention to their own lives with God in fresh and creative ways. So far, the outcomes are encouraging.

About the Author

Norm Thomasma is director of Pastor-Church Relations. This CRC ministry offers retreats and seminars that help build healthy relationships between church staffs and councils.