This fall, IPHC is honored to offer a second opportunity for its pastors to be blessed, encouraged, strengthened, and stretched through the Thriving Throughout the Seasons of Pastoral Ministry. Openings are available for pastors to participate, so please continue reading to learn more!
In 2018, the IPHC received a million-dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. “Lilly Endowment Inc. was founded in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. for the ‘promotion and support of religious, educational or charitable purposes.’ Throughout its history, the Endowment has sought to nurture the human spirit, intellect, and character. When once asked what the main purpose of the Endowment should be, Eli Lilly said, ‘I hope we could help improve the character of the American people.’”1
IPHC’s proposal was one of only 78 selected out of 600 applicants. Receiving the grant allowed IPHC to create the Thriving Through the Seasons of Pastoral Ministry, a program designed to help pastoral leaders with their personal relationships with God, their families, and their congregations through retreats and small groups. This is significant because the research by the Lilly Endowment, prior to launching this significant opportunity for many church groups, indicated that few pastors have mentors in their lives or intentionally mentor other pastors.
The retreats that pastors attend focus on 6 key areas: Spiritual Formation, Soul Care, Marriage, Leadership/Preaching, the Call of God, and Finishing Well. Over a period of two and a half years, the retreats are the anchor of the program, but the main emphasis is establishing small mentoring groups for the pastors. Within each small group, everyone is asked to meet electronically at least once a month for listening, caring, sharing, and praying with each other. The strength of this program is within these covenant groups which strive to break the “all alone syndrome” of pastoral ministry. One pastor shares their experience below:
“Words fail me to fully describe the benefits this program has provided and will continue to provide. Being a part of a mentoring group, the Lord spoke into my spirit the encouragement, support and guidance that was needed at the exact time, precise moment in order to allow me to thrive in his calling. As young, in terms of years in actual ministry, there were many things that I lacked and honestly had no idea how to “do” ministry. This program brought those critical tools and support to me so I can continue to fulfill God’s plan and mission for my life. I consider this program a ministry saving event in my life.”
After the success, and learning, from the first three cohorts, Dr. Lou Shirey, Thriving in Ministry Director, hopes for even more positive change to occur with the upcoming group. IPHC received a Sustainability Program grant that the denomination matched, so IPHC pastors can continue to improve themselves and their ministries.
“Sometimes pastors do not feel blessed or honored in what they do,” shared Dr. Shirey. Thriving in Ministry strives to bless pastors by saying “thank you” for everything they do as church leaders while helping serve them personally and professionally through the six retreats they attend. One attendee declared, “After 25 years I have never had an encounter that has blessed me more. It was for ME not the ministry. I don’t know if I would have made it much longer without this opportunity. Because of Thriving in Ministry, I took my first sabbatical. I’m a far better pastor and leader because of it. Thank you.”
Many professions, including pastors, are discouraged by the negativity of today's society, so Thriving in Ministry endeavors to encourage pastors to keep going and continue to serve. “I came to the first retreat very discouraged. During the Spiritual Formation Retreat, I realized that my main concept of God was that He primarily judged me. I was able to see the inaccuracy of that concept and grasped God as loving, supporting, and caring of me. I am now a different person and a different pastor, and my congregation knows that I am different,” voiced another attendee.
As1 Thessalonians 5:11 states, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Thriving in Ministry aims to bring pastors together because there is great strength in numbers. The program’s small groups were especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic because members were provided extra encouragement, care, connection, and prayer during such a difficult time. Through their relationships, pastors were able to recognize and establish friendships which have continued even now. “It has been wonderful to be able to share my deepest scars and wounds, hurts and anguish without fear of being looked at like I was crazy,” shared an attendee. Another asserted, “Our mentoring group has been a priceless treasure. God has used it to help sustain, encourage, and empower me through the trying season of Covid. The men have become an answer to my years of yearning in prayer for true friendship in ministry. I am not alone in this anymore!”
Dr. Lou Shirey and his wife, Becky, come from a military chaplaincy background, and their 40+ years of experiences have allowed them access to a wide range of national and international organizations and denominations. When developing the focus of each retreat, it was important to Dr. Shirey to stretch the pastors by including speakers with different qualifications so pastors would be exposed to new insights. Another participant remarked, “The experience has blessed us beyond words. We are very honored to have the opportunity to participate in these retreats…We have participated in dozens and dozens of retreats and events, teaching in them or attending, but what God has done in this retreat has been so profound that it can’t be expressed in words. Thank you.”
Ultimately, a pastor who is healthy in all areas of life will, in turn, have a healthy church. It is imperative that pastors are taken care of so that their congregations will be as well. By continuing the Thriving in Ministry program, IPHC will continue to grow the kingdom of God. For more information on joining a future cohort, please contact Dr. Lou Shirey at firstname.lastname@example.org.