While the task of ministering to pastors can be daunting for those of us involved, it is encouraging to know that we are not alone. When I began the process of coming on board with PIR Ministries, I shared what God was doing in my life with a friend, Charles Shepson. Dr. Shepson entered my life as a counselor and encourager during a time in my pastoral ministry years ago when the depth of my own personal issues was just beginning to emerge. He is the founder of Fairhaven Ministries in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. Charles and I corresponded with some frequency over the years, and when he heard about the new direction of my life, he immediately said, “You need to go to CareGivers in November!” I had no idea what he was talking about at the time. But, on his recommendation, Deb and I signed up. Afterwards, we discovered that PIR Ministries has been an active part of CareGivers for a number of years.
The 2012 CareGivers Forum was held last week, November 4-8, at the WinShape Retreat Center on the campus of Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Deb and I had the privilege of attending, along with Ed Lochmoeller, the National Director of PIR Ministries. We met with 164 others, representing over 65 different ministries that share in the mission of caring for God’s shepherds. It is an annual gathering of people from across the United States, and “provides opportunity for personal relationships, professional networking and shared learning.” This year’s speaker was H.B. London, formerly the director of Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Care division.
I have been to my fair share of conferences and denominational meetings, where pastors and Christian workers meet together for a variety of purposes. And while there are times at those conferences where true connections are made, it was deeply refreshing to be a part of a gathering where the usual posturing and one-upmanship was completely absent. The willingness to share personal stories, resources and strategies for caring for pastors was remarkable. The work of helping and restoring those in full-time ministry can seem (and really is!) quite overwhelming. Yet we were reminded, through the teaching of H.B. London and the interactions with those who attended, that our ability to serve those who need care begins with our own personal rootedness in Christ. How fitting, since we often advise pastors that taking care of their own soul is the chief component in staying healthy in ministry.
A number of workshops were conducted by several of the members of the Forum, and will prove to be quite helpful as we chart a course through the waters of pastoral care. Deb and I particularly appreciated hearing from other couples who were working together in their ministries, as husband and wife.
Some significant new relationships developed for PIR Ministries during this year’s conference. Among those, we enjoyed getting to know Matthew Parker of the Summit Group in Detroit, and gaining a clearer picture of how to bring the resources of ministries like PIR to the pastors of the inner city. In a clear “God moment,” Deb and I were able to reconnect with a couple we had known and worked with during the years of our ministry in the pastorate. Ken and his wife Bonnie are working in a pastoral care ministry in Grand Rapids; we hope to partner with them and several other ministries in the West Michigan area in the coming months. We recently found out that Ken’s brother, is a pastor that has been in touch with us at PIR, taken the PRO-D, and has found help in dealing with some significant burnout issues.
All of this took place against the backdrop of the amazing hospitality and 5-star facilities of WinShape Retreat, where we were treated royally! This time of refreshment and encouragement is unparalleled in our experience. The fact that this was the largest gathering of attendees the Forum has ever seen is due largely to the generosity of the Cathy family (of Chick-Fil-A), who underwrote the bulk of the cost. We are very grateful for that generosity, and it seems to highlight for us that this ministry we have to ministers is taken seriously by many.
You will continue hear about some of the new ministry partners we met over the coming months. There are rich resources available to bring hope and help to God’s shepherds, and our hearts are joined with others who share the same burden. It is good to know you are not alone!