Pulling over, stopping, making a U-turn: ministry at mid-career

Posted Feb 09, 2016 | Pastoral Excellence Network

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By Lawrence Peers

I have become attached to my GPS, especially since moving to a new, unfamiliar, big city about 3 years ago. Without it, I would be lost. With it, I still sometimes get lost. Every now and then I venture off course and hear the GPS say, “Recalculating.” Scrambling to get my bearings, I sometimes have to pull over, stop and take a U-turn. It is reassuring to get the verbal reinforcement that I’m back on track and heading correctly toward my destination.

Ministry does not come with a GPS.

Sometimes we are far down a path before we realize that we are off course and need to redirect our energies.

Sometimes we come to a screeching stop.

Sometimes we get reminders from congregants, colleagues or the Spirit that we need to make a U-turn.

Sometimes it feels like we are on course.

Sometimes an undetermined, unplanned destination emerges and we discover avenues of ministry that we never anticipated, avenues that stretch and change us. We know we need to take those times to “recalculate” our path in ministry. 

Clergy peer groups are ideal places for us to take the pulse of our own ministry, to work out the challenges, to draw upon the wisdom and imagination of others, to plot new directions and to enter into deep discernment. These groups have been a life-line and a lifesaver for many clergy that we have encountered or heard about within the Pastoral Excellence Network.

In a workshop I led recently about facilitating clergy groups, I introduced the idea that everyone in a clergy group is standing on a “threshold” within their ministry, whether they are aware of it or not. Mid-career is one of those threshold times or “seasons” within ministry. It is a time to consider where we have been, where we are and where we want to be in our life and ministry.  It is a time to reflect upon the wisdom we have gathered to the present moment, to assess our current setting and what enlivens and depletes our sense of call, and to await in a prayerful way the luring of the Spirit for what wants to emerge in our ministry.  Perhaps, you can take a moment now to reflect upon the threshold of your ministry by answering with head and heart these questions:

  • What has my ministry been like up until now?
  • What ways does my current ministry feel vital and/or draining?
  • What wants to happen in my ministry and life moving forward?

Join us for a “PEN Talk,” a free webinar, on Thursday, February 25th at 2 PM EST on the topic, “The Holy Threshold of Mid-Career Ministry.” To access the webinar go to:  https://cpx.adobeconnect.com/pentalkfeb2016

On May 2-5, 2016, I will be co-facilitating a retreat with Deborah Jackson on “Spiritual and Leadership Renewal for Mid-Career Clergy” at Pendle Hill, near Philadelphia.  Please consider joining us for this opportunity. This retreat is specifically designed for those clergy who are mid-career (and those who work with mid-career clergy). Bringing together tools for self-assessment, leadership and spiritual renewal, we’ll develop a resource that can be used by clergy groups. For more information about this retreat, please visit the event page.


Lawrence Peers, Director of Learning of the Pastoral Excellence Network (PEN), helps provide and oversee PEN’s training of clergy group facilitators, new clergy mentoring, and clergy coaches. He brings a broad experience of working with clergy across many faith traditions and in every season of ministry. 

The Pastoral Excellence Network at CTS seeks to connect and nurture groups for clergy at all stages of ministry. To request permission to repost this content, please contact wsordillo@cts.edu.

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