This is the first in a series of articles about pastoral development in the IPHC. Several IPHC programs seek to encourage and help pastors grow, including the Healthy, Growing, Multiplying churches initiative; the Thriving throughout the Seasons of Pastoral Ministry program (profiled below); the M Initiative, aimed at pastors of churches growing toward 1,000 in membership; as well as our Clergy Care Team.
On September 2, 2020, the third and final cohort of the IPHC’s Thriving in the Seasons of Pastoral Ministry (TTSPM) program met for its first retreat at WinShape Retreat in Rome, Georgia. Nearly 30 participants, live and online, heard Dr. Gary and Regina Moon lay a foundation for fruitful, lifelong pastoral ministry. The Thriving program is one that director Dr. Lou Shirey says is crucial for planting and growing healthy churches in the IPHC.
The Thriving program began in 2017 with a grand but crucial vision: to see pastors grow into greater spiritual and emotional health, so that their churches would benefit and grow under their leadership.
As a result, the retreats focus first on the pastors themselves and their relationship with God. The first retreat, in particular, is designed to help the pastor encounter God in a fresh way, and to move toward greater union with Him.
But these encounters with don’t happen for each pastor alone. The Thriving program benefits from a crucial relationship dynamic, placing pastoral leaders in a “peer learning community and mentorship program”—some of them for the first time.
“Pastors tell me over and over,” Dr. Shirey says, “‘I’m alone and I’m not connected.’”
Pastors need connections, and they struggle to make them in the context of local ministry, so the Thriving community of pastors becomes a place for them to share their journey. The focus on spiritual growth and relationship also leads to clarifying the call, to developing personal holiness or sanctification, and to greater excellence and joy in leading their ministries. In short, the Thriving program strengthens the local church by helping pastoral leaders cultivate a flourishing spiritual life and vocation.
Early evidence from Group 1 participants (see the video, below), suggests the program is already affecting pastors on a personal level. Kevin Robinson, a North Carolina minister, said of the first retreat, “This program is going to add value and significance to the ministry God has given me.”
And pastors recognize the value of personal growth to the health of their congregations.
Ben Crisp, who pastors Reflection Church in Oklahoma City, said, “My prayer is that the enrichment and development I receive would be not only for my personal benefit, but for our church’s benefit.”
Alabama pastor Al Bethea added, “If I grow and get better, then whatever is in me, I can share with others.
The retreats could prove vital for clergy development and church growth in the IPHC. As we continue toward realizing the ambitious vision of Arise 2033, the IPHC’s need for healthy churches that can plant and support new churches has never been greater. In a video for the program, Pastor Allen Mayo of Stedman PHC imagines it will be “a monumental, milestone moment” for the IPHC, planting seeds for the future of the movement.
In the same video, Dr. Shirey voices his agreement, hinting at the far-reaching implications of the Thriving retreats. “As pastors are healthy, we will have healthy churches. And healthy churches are winsome and are attractive to other people.”
For more about the Thriving program, visit iphc.org/gso/lilly-thriving.
Group 2 of the Thriving program meets for their second retreat October 1-3 at The Cove in North Carolina.