Stephen Covey calls the seventh of his seven habits of highly effective people ‘Sharpening the Saw’. The principle is straightforward: if you want to cut down more trees with less effort, take time to make sure your saw is sharp. The same is true for ministry: time taken for intentional learning and development not only refreshes and renews us but also helps to make our ministry more effective.
For those in full-time ordained ministry, the terms of Common Tenure include an expectation of five days in total each year spent on intentional ministerial development. This is five days out of a total of 276 (assuming a six-day week) with the potential to make our ministry more fruitful; to guide our vocational development, making us better able to hear and respond to God’s call; and to prevent us from becoming stale and losing our way.
In fact, those five days make up only 10% of CMD. Research suggests that most people engage in at least two and sometimes as many as twenty ‘learning projects’ in a typical year. These may be as simple as learning to use a new computer programme or as intensive and wide-ranging and learning to cope with bereavement. A typical ‘learning project’ will have three types of component:
- 10% may consist of intentional formal learning, such as reading a manual or attending a training day.
- 20% usually involves learning with others, such as through learning from colleagues, mentoring or spiritual direction.
- 70% – by far the biggest proportion – takes the form of experience and reflection, such as observing others, networking, asking others for feedback, testing ideas or simply reflecting on experience with the aim of learning for the future.
If this is true of life in general, how much more important it is to form the habit of creating ministerial learning goals for ourselves on a regular basis? it may be that there are specific skills we need to learn to fulfil the demands of ministry – how to improve our preaching, lead assemblies, manage volunteers better, create a mission action plan, manage change more effectively. Or it may be that the priority is to respond to our personal vocation: to deepen our prayer life, do some in-depth study of the Bible, or follow up an area of theology or ministerial practice such as chaplaincy or pastoral counselling. For those who have a regular ministerial development review, this can be an ideal time for refining our personal ministry development goals.
For licensed clergy (stipendiary and self-supporting) a network of ministry accompaniers exists to provide one-to-one coaching, mentoring or work consultancy. The link below explains in detail how to find the right ministry accompanier for your needs.
For licensed office holders, a sabbatical may be an appropriate element in learning and development. The link provides information on eligibility and guidance on planning and funding a sabbatical.