When I first came to the Center for Pastoral Excellence at its inception in 2012 in order to direct the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, I was immediately impressed at the vitality shown by all five of the initiatives within the Center. The Center’s vision is to foster pastoral excellence across the long arc of ministry, and each of the five initiatives (the Discipleship Project, the New Media Project, the Pastoral Excellence Network, the Clergy Renewal Programs, and the Academy for Preaching and Celebration) contributes to this goal in its own way.
But more than that, and to a level that I have come to appreciate more and more each day, the initiatives all inform each other. This is as it should be because pastors don’t lead easily compartmentalized lives. From my years in the parish, I can attest that both the joy and the challenge of daily pastoral practice came largely from the fact that, at any given moment, I might be called upon to attend to matters requiring completely different skill sets—biblical exegesis, counseling, business savvy, interpersonal skills, theology, and so on. It kept the days exciting, but could also bring on a feeling of whiplash!
Moreover, to function in a healthy way in the parish, I had to carry out this sort of ambidextrous attention to multiple tasks in the context of attending to my own spiritual, familial, and physical well-being. While a whole host of writings and resources exist to promote clergy well-being and self-care, we at the Center for Pastoral Excellence believe that questions of pastoral well-being and pastoral excellence are intimately connected and should be treated as such.
Now, in my new role as executive director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence, I am excited to work alongside my colleagues in the Center and at Christian Theological Seminary to continue the work of carrying out these initiatives as well as thinking creatively about how they all intersect. I feel privileged to help curate a great deal of ongoing wisdom about pastoral ministry and, also, to think about how best to apply that wisdom to pressing issues within the church today.
In the coming year, we will continue to study the unique challenges and opportunities present at each stage of a given pastor’s ministry and how each of the Center’s initiatives can evolve together in nimble yet theologically grounded ways. The church in the United States in its various denominational expressions is a marvelously complex reality and one that is itself always changing. Fortunately, given our location as part of an excellent seminary which is itself centered in the rich context of the city of Indianapolis, we feel that we are in a great position to continue to receive, contemplate, and parse a whole host of relevant data that will help us and others to think well about what pastors need to pursue excellent ministry in their contexts.
In the meantime, I encourage you to check in from time to time on each initiative’s page to stay abreast of new developments—blog posts, gatherings, grant opportunities, etc. And please feel free to contact me if you have thoughts or ideas as to how the Center’s initiatives can benefit your ministry. I look forward to rich conversations ahead!
Robert C. Saler is the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence and Director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister of Word and sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
The Center for Pastoral Excellence at CTS addresses the long arc of ministry from discernment to training to sustaining excellence ministry. To request permission to repost this content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.