From the first peer group meeting to the final retreat, this program lasts approximately 15 months for each cohort. The third cohort will begin meeting in January of 2023 and end in April 2024.
Will participation in this program count as continuing education credit?
Yes. Full participation in all retreats, peer group meetings, and other elements of this program will count as 7 continuing education credits. The Center for Ministry at Millsaps College can provide a transcript of your participation and the credits earned to your denominational offices as needed upon completion of the program.
Will childcare be covered by grant funds?
Grant funds cannot be used to pay for childcare directly. However, grant funds will cover the costs of travel, retreats, peer group meetings, and other aspects of the program, in an effort to free participants to use personal funding in whatever ways are most helpful to them without the burden of paying for any grant related activities.
WHY DO WE HAVE TO FORM OUR OWN PEER GROUPS?
Research indicates that self-selected peer groups are far more effective than those created by others on the basis of geography, gender, age, denomination, or other factors. When participants form a peer group themselves, they are able to identify commonalities and shared interests that are often missing when groups are organized by demographic information alone. This allows the group to hone the focus of their work together to their particular needs and passions and to build more lasting, meaningful relationships with one another.
Why do peer groups have to be ecumenical?
Research indicates that ecumenical peer groups provide far greater benefits to participants than those composed of a single denomination. Ecumenical groups allow participants to engage more openly and authentically with one another without fear of repercussions within their denomination. Additionally, they allow for the sharing of ideas, resources, and perspectives from other traditions, providing access to a broader web of support than is available in any single denomination.
How do I form a peer group?
Previous participants have connected with colleagues in a variety of ways, including:
Contacting denominational offices to identify other clergywomen who can serve as a group mentor and/or as additional participants
Reaching out to friends or alumni networks from seminary
Contacting local churches of different denominations to identify clergywomen in the area
Reaching out online via Facebook groups or other social media accounts or email lists dedicated to clergywomen and/or southern clergy
Contacting our program director to identify other groups or individuals seeking peer group members
As you are forming your group, remember to keep your checklist handy to ensure that the group make-up fits the grant criteria. We encourage you to begin forming your group early, as finding the right mix of participants who are eligible and able to participate can take time.
Do peer group meetings have to happen in person?
No. While we do have funds available for travel to facilitate peer groups meeting in person, online meetings via Zoom or similar programs are perfectly acceptable. We recognize that not all clergywomen have female colleagues within easy driving distance, so meeting digitally allows groups to span multiple cities and even states. As long as groups meet for at least four hours per month, these meetings may occur in person, online, or in some combination of the two.
Does the peer group mentor have any additional responsibilities in the group?
No. The mentor serves as a co-learner bringing the benefit of her experience and wisdom to the group. She does not take on any additional assignments or time commitments not shared by the rest of the group.
Why do we have to have congregational training?
While clergy will receive resources and support to establish patterns that promote thriving in their ministry via retreats and peer group meetings, they can only effectively put these to use in their churches with congregational support. A pastor whose congregation does not share their vision of promoting clergy thriving will be extremely limited in their ability to create a culture of thriving. Therefore, congregational training is needed to provide research, context, and practical tools for congregations to recognize both why and how they can promote clergy well-being in their context. This training will serve both the clergywoman and the congregation in the short term and for years to come.
What is my congregation committing to with my participation in this program?
Congregations are asked to participate in the application process to ensure they understand the commitments they and their pastor are making to participate in this program. Congregations are asked to support their pastor by respecting the time needed to attend peer group meetings and retreats, participate in a restorative niche, and receive spiritual direction/coaching. Congregational leaders (whether lay or staff) are also asked to attend a congregational training led by the program director to provide context about the program and offer them tools to create a sustainable culture of thriving within their congregation. These trainings will last approximately four hours and may occur in-person of via webinar.
What if I have to miss a retreat or peer group meeting?
In an effort to steward the space and resources of this grant well, we expect all participants to honor their commitments to full participation in all program activities, including retreats and peer group meetings. As part of their application process, applicants are given retreat dates to ensure that they can be present for the entirety of each. However, we understand that sometimes unforeseen absences will occur. Participants may miss only one retreat and up to 20% of peer group meetings due to unavoidable emergencies, and they must notify the program director as soon as possible should this be necessary. Any participant with additional absences or who fails to notify the program director of absences will be dismissed from the program.
What will the retreats be like?
Each retreat will be a little bit different based upon the size and needs of the particular cohort, but in general, participants can expect the following. The first retreat will focus on sharing the research which informs the program, providing opportunities for individual peer groups and for the broader cohort to bond and plan their time together, leadership development lessons from experienced clergywomen who will serve as both retreat leaders and ministry role models. This retreat will include large group workshops, peer group reflection, and time for fellowship and relaxation.
The peer group-specific retreat or conference will be selected by members of each peer group and may take a variety of forms. Groups may opt to attend a pre-existing event or curate their own with the funds provided for this purpose. A worksheet will be provided to assist groups in planning their peer group-specific retreat.
The final retreat will be an international pilgrimage to close out our time together. It will include a guided journey to follow in the footsteps of a Christian figure with particular significance to women in ministry as well as free time for reflection, fellowship, and celebration.
At all retreats participants should expect to share a room with one other person. However, participants will be able to select their roommates, and we will seek to offer the option for a private room at a minimal cost to participants when possible.
Are trans women eligible for this program?
Yes! Trans women are women and therefore fully eligible to apply to this program. Non-binary clergy who identify as women are also invited to apply.
What if I am currently an associate pastor and do not feel called to senior or solo pastoral leadership?
While we celebrate and affirm your particular calling, this program is specifically focused on equipping those who are called to senior or solo pastoral leadership. We ask that only associate pastors who are preparing for this call apply.
Can I participate if I am a co-pastor?
Yes, but some restrictions may apply. If you are the co-senior pastor within your first three years in that role, you can participate. If you are serving as an associate co-pastor seeking to transition into a solo or senior pastor role, you can participate. If you are a co-senior pastor with seven or more years of experience, you can participate as a peer group mentor. However, if none of these conditions apply, you may not be eligible to participate in this program. Please contact the program director before applying if you are unsure about your eligibility.
Can I participate if I have already have experience as a solo or senior pastor?
Yes, you can serve as the mentor to your peer group if you have 7 or more years of experience as a solo or senior pastor. Remember, though, that each group can only have one mentor. This means all other group members must be (a) within the first 3 years of their first role as a solo pastor, AND/OR (b) within the first 3 years of their first role as a senior pastor, AND/OR (c) serving as an associate pastor preparing to transition into a role as a solo or senior pastor.
What if I have had experience as a solo pastor but this is my first time as a senior pastor with other pastoral staff?
You can still participate if you are within your first three years in this role! This marks a significant transition in your ministry career and leadership, so if this is your first time as a senior pastor supervising a staff that includes other clergy, you would qualify as a peer group participant. If you have been in this role more than seven years, you can participate as a peer group mentor.
Can I participate if I am a clergywoman in ministry outside of the local church (such as at a non-profit, university, etc.)?
While we celebrate and affirm your ministry beyond the local church, this program is particularly focused on clergywomen serving in solo or senior leadership roles within the congregational church. We are not able to accept applications serving in extension ministry.
Do I have to be currently serving in the southern United States?
Yes, all participants must be currently serving in a congregation in the South to apply and participate in the program. Those will previous experience serving in the South who have since moved elsewhere will not be considered.
What counts as “the southern United States”?
While there is some flexibility in determining the parameters of this region, we generally define it as the states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. If you have a question about your particular location, please contact the program director before applying.
Mailing Address: Center for Ministry Box 150041 Millsaps College 1701 N. State Street Jackson, MS 39210