Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Formation Toward Healthy Pastors

A recent blog posting by Dr. Chuck DeGroat of the Newbigin House of Studies (@ http://www.newbiginhouse.org/Training-Healthy-Pastors-A-Historical-Context) has served as a good reminder to me about why the MFCA has included in its program the emphasis on the development of the pastor as a healthy and whole person. Since requiring that our candidates take a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), the MFCA has made it a priority to view pastoral formation as being a unique and balanced combination of academic learning, character development, spiritual understanding and emotional / relational health.

Many of our candidates are more than capable when it comes to classroom learning. When academic deficiencies are identified, it is often a simple exercise to develop a program of study to address the said deficit. Health issues are more difficult to address, especially when it involves emotional, spiritual and relational health. Candidates often enter the process with unresolved family of origin issues, self esteem struggles, behavioral tensions, relational conflicts and, in some cases, psychological disorders.  Some are drawn to ministry as part of a pursuit to find healing and recovery for their personal lives. Addictions and codependency, often well hidden from most others, control the candidate and suppress spiritual sensitivity along with limiting the ability to lead others toward health. It is not uncommon to have ministerial candidates who require attention and care from others in such large doses that 1) the minister is incapable to offer care and be present to those in need, and 2) those in need quickly recognize that the minister is in crisis and, rather than seeking their help, begin to assist the minister. Roles get reversed and the system may promote dysfunction and perpetuate the problems of both the parishioner and pastor.

Recognizing that the health of individuals, especially those preparing for pastoral leadership, is part of the responsibility of the MFCA, the following are measured and reported on for all candidates in the program:

·         The development of self-awareness.
·         Awareness of how one’s personality and ministry style affect others.
·         Understanding of pastoral authority and boundaries.
·         Healthy balance between professional and personal life.
·         Holistic pastoral identity integrating attitudes, values, assumptions, strengths and weaknesses.
·         Healthy awareness of and engagement with contextual factors (e.g. social conditions, family systems, racial, economic, and cultural factors) that bear on ministerial practice.
·         Capacity to integrate theological understanding with pastoral identity and practice.
·         Healthy and constructive engagement with peers.
·         Use of peer interaction and supervision to enhance ministry effectiveness.

Where candidates cannot gain access to a unit of CPE, the MFCA offers them the Seminar on Pastoral Formation. Dr. Jaco Hamman of Western Theological Seminary (WTS) is the facilitator of the seminar which will again be offered in the spring of 2011. The seminar utilizes some excellent books to assist individuals in reflection on these crucial areas for ministry. The following are recommended for any pastor seeking a healthier existence and ministry:

Hamman, Jaco J. Becoming a Pastor: Forming self and soul for ministry. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2007.

Harbaugh, Gary L. The pastor as person: Maintaining personal integrity in the choices and challenges of ministry. Augsburg Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1984.

Richardson, Ronald W. Becoming a Healthier Pastor: Family Systems Theory and the Pastor's Own Family Creative Pastoral Care and Counseling Series. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005.

1 comment:

Phil Bakelaar said...

excellent summary. in classis new brunswick we are working with peer supervision groups that seek to address these matters on an ongoing basis for all of our installed ministers.