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Compass covenant groups developing

Leading a congregation is a unique calling, requiring relational, organizational, supervisory, financial, marketing and business skills, as well as theological training, spiritual grounding, and the ability to pray, preach, counsel, teach, and mobilize people. Congregations need someone not only to love them but also to lead them with rapidly changing contexts in which we serve, learning these skills and deepening these gifts requires lifelong learning. Clergy learn best from other clergy... Nothing influences clergy leadership more than a supportive learning community of other pastors.
—Bishop Robert Schnase in “Seven Levers: Missional Strategies for Conferences”

Ministry can feel like a roller coaster of exhilaration and exhaustion. The Dakotas Conference clergy are amazing. They delight in the privilege of leading God’s people, and yet nothing is easy about pastoral ministry these days.

Those who sustain their joy, and are effective for the long haul attest to the power of a community of peers. They did not try to go it alone. Clergy need a community to hold them up, cheer them on and challenge them to grow. It is important to keep anchored in the identity as beloved children of Christ and help that live out the calling as a disciple of Christ and leader in the church.

In the Dakotas Conference, clergy are encouraged to be in a Compass Covenant group.

A covenant group has 5-12 people that are led by a guide.  Guide training and resources are available.

Historically, clergy in the Dakotas Conference were assigned to a ministry team.  Ministry teams were organized around geography and would meet on a monthly basis. The ministry team model worked well for communication purposes but often did not meet the specific needs of clergy as individual leaders.

Several groups are emerging or continuing to develop throughout the conference.  In the Eastern Sunrise District, Rev. Randy Cross, district superintendent, reports there are several groups: some organized around the old ministry teams model, one group is focused on the role of young clergywomen and another group is committed to discipleship.

“I see the clergy involved appearing to be engaged with new ideas,” said Cross.

“This is the first all-women group I’ve ever been a part of,” said Pastor Sara Nelson of Watertown First UMC. “It’s incredibly helpful to be in a group that shares the joys and challenges of being a woman in ministry. The level of depth and caring among colleagues and friends is completely different than any group I’ve been in.”

In the Prairie Hills District District Superintendent, Rev. Kevin Kloster states that several groups are forming.  Clergy in the Rapid City area still meet on a monthly basis. Several clergy in the Prairie Hills District have joined a Compass Covenant group.

“I think those who are in similar contexts are finding support, best practices, and encouragement,” said Kloster.

Training and support from the Leadership Development Office of the Dakotas Conference will strengthen existing Compass Covenant groups and those that are still developing.

“We look forward to creating a more detailed system of resources, training, and support for the Compass groups.  We will look at launching new groups and support systems soon,” said Deb Kjerstad, director of leadership development.

“It’s been a really good time together,” said pastor Bill Hoffman, Faulkton. “We try to meet face-to-face every three months, but that’s not always possible. We made a rule early on, that if one person can’t make it, we postpone. We have been able to meet every two weeks via videoconference, though.”

Bill's group continues to work through the book, Crafting a Rule of Life, and they are each trying to establish a rule of life for themselves, working toward spiritual formation. Bill said, “I have been in other groups in the past, but this is working much better, and we’re sticking with it.”


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