As pastors discover over time, ministry is more role than job. For many the functional, practical stress points are out of synch with the training received at the theological seminary. Ministers find themselves trying to facilitate community and mission with congregants whose goals are often incongruent.
As this struggle or dance continues, most pastors find they are isolated and without significant emotional support. Tactical leadership tools are lacking. Seminary focused on Biblical exegesis, hermeneutics, church history, social justice and perhaps public speaking, but not on practical ministry skills. Ministers find themselves eager to facilitate change without an adequate comprehensive understanding of change process. Conflict mediation skills are typically not present or difficult to utilize due to the nature of power imbalances between a pastor and congregational leadership.
The Pastors Consultation is a solid, process-oriented support group for ministers in a typical congregational setting. The design of the Pas-Con is a three-hour, monthly consultation in which leadership principles are presented, discussed, hashed out, argued, and learned in a mutually supportive setting. The design allows for participants to bring case studies of current or recent-past troublesome situations for feedback from the group, and expert consultation from the facilitator.
The teaching and structure come from the systems principles developed by Murray Bowen, Michael Kerr, Edwin Friedman, and others. Conflict mediation techniques and process come from the work of Speed Leas, Roy Oswald, and others.
The facilitator for Pas-Con is Dr. Thomas M. Smith, a licensed clinical psychologist who was also a minister over a twenty-five year period in various congregations across the country. Dr. Smith worked with Rabbi Friedman before he died, and delved into how ministers function in the midst of conflict-featured change process in his doctoral dissertation. He has consulted with a number of congregations in the past and continues to do so, and facilitated a similar Pas-Con group for two years in Oakland.
The Pastors Consultation will meet monthly in Dr. Smith's clinical office in Dixon, or in a conference room in his medical office building. The ideal size for the group is 6-12.
The Pas-Con will have an innovative cost structure. Dr. Smith will discount his regular fee and look to receive $100 per hour. If the group meets for three hours, then participants will pay $300 divided by the number of participants for the entire period of that day. For example, if there are six participants each will pay $50 for the three hour consultation. If there are eight people present, then the cost reduces to $37.50. If ten, $30.
The first time you attend the group, you may pay at that time. If you intend to continue the group, they ask that you commit to the remainder of the year and to pay for the remaining sessions upfront unless other arrangements are made.
United Methodists can apply for continuing education through Don Lee (Conference website) and we can get CEU.
The Pas-Con will begin on June 6 and meet during the hours of 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first Monday of the month (except for July, when we’ll meet July 11). If there is room, late registrants will be welcome.
The Coordinator for the upcoming monthly Pas-Con is the Rev. Judy Shook, a United Methodist minister who is currently the pastor of the UMC congregation in Ukiah, CA. Ministers of any denomination or religious body are welcome as long as they register with Pastor Judy, who can be reached at 707-468-6465.