So Much Better: How Thousands of Pastors Help Each Other Thrive
By Penny Long Marler, D. Bruce Roberts, Janet Maykus, James Bowers, Larry Dill, Brenda K. Harewood, Richard Hester, Sheila Kirton-Robbins, Marianne LaBarre, Lis Van Harten, Kelli Walker-Jones
Meant to both inspire and inform pastoral leaders, So Much Better examines the impact of peer group participation on pastoral leaders, their families, and ministries.
This book goes beyond numbers and data by breathing life into the statistical bones. At this book’s heart are seven peer group models including stories and examples from participants, families, and church members. Also featured is information about peer group recruitment, leadership, content, and structure, and practical advice about the cost, sustainability, and evaluation of peer groups.
So Much Better can change the way you think about and perform your ministry and lead you to a life that is-- well, so much better.
Click below to download the free survey report and analysis mentioned throughout So Much Better.
Click to Download A Study of the Effects of Participation in SPE Pastoral Leader Peer Groups - Survey Report and Analysis (7.1MB)
From The Columbia Partnership (TCP) Leadership Series
“…..Contending to be “the first serious examination of the power of pastoral peer learning,” So Much Better links the first-century disciple model and the twenty-first century adult education movement. The book shares the results of two national surveys of pastoral leaders along with a survey of several thousand ministers in peer group programs, but its heart details seven peer group models with stories, examples and practical advice:
1. The radical agency groups of the Methodist-initiated now freestanding Institute of Clergy Excellence. 2. Holy friendships sponsored by a Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary. 3. Pastoral covenant groups organized and overseen by Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN) through its Center for Pentecostal Leadership and Care. 4. Cross- cultural peer immersion of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention. 5. Green Spaces rooted in the Christian Reformed Church in North America. 6. Companions in leadership, a part of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry (Roman Catholic). 7. Narrative peer groups of the Triangle Pastoral Counseling Center.
Each model is thoroughly summarized by one of the author pool, chapter by chapter, in seven of the book’s eight chapters—each model “illustrates a unique way of negotiating peer learning, polarities” (page 16). The final chapter draws together insights from across the entire SPE spectrum.
So—which model is best? Contrary to their expectations, the authors found they could not declare a single winner. “What we found is stunning: peer learning in many different forms and models, produces energy for the pursuit of excellence in the practice of ministry….each report similar positive results….Whereas we were surprised that no one definitive model emerged from this study, it is very clear that peer learning groups are an effective medium for delivering continuing education and professional formation that is engaging to participants and facilitative of more energized and effective leadership for congregations” (page 163).
....... So Much Better authors weave together strands of the SPE study with an optimistic conclusion. “We have learned from the testimony of peer learning participants that, when we enter a covenant together where personal gifts are offered to the group freely, leadership is shared, there is honest exchange and respect for each person, participatory norms are honored, persons are listened to and accepted, then there is the presence of Spirit: energy, motivation, joy and love” (page 178).
This motivating volume is packed with both scholarly wisdom and practical tools for sustaining ministry with excellence (for instance, easy-to-use guidelines for spiritual journaling, page 96). APC colleague groups can do worse than to invest time in savoring together So Much Better’s nourishing fruit. An appendix provides a capsule description with web address for 25 peer group resources and an extensive index enhances the book’s reference value in a pastor’s library.”
Willard E. Roth, Mennonite Church USA, SHARING THE PRACTICE, September 2013
“A compelling account of the fruitful ways that covenant friendships, mutual accountability, and candid communication sustain pastoral excellence.”
-John D. Witvliet, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary
“So Much Better is a rich storehouse of practical suggestions for forging a ‘more excellent way’ of directed self-learning that promises to engage learners where they are, take them beyond where they envisioned going, and sustain them in surprising ways. The sense of ownership and sheer joy in carrying out a plan attuned to the interests of a group of colleagues is a beautiful thing to watch unfold.”
- Sarah F. Erickson, Columbia Theological Seminary
“This book describes one of the most significant shifts in thinking about continuing education in a generation or more. The authors are helping to transform continuing education from ‘an interesting weekend away’ into a disciplined exercise that is changing the practice of ministry.”
- Stephen Fetter, United Church of Canada
“The research highlights the primacy of covenantal group life and spiritual disciplines of listening, being, and learning that renew and sustain lifelong formation of church leaders. The book offers an inside look at powerful models of peer learning for pastors and holds promise for renewal of congregations.”
- Marilyn Evans, United Theological Seminary
“So Much Better may well prove to be the definitive manual on the subject of peer-to-peer learning and formation groups for clergy.”
- Stephen A. Simmons, Moravian Theological Seminary