A Peer Learning Community (PLC) is a gathering that promotes powerful clergy growth and development. Peer Learning Communities are a cornerstone of both the Launching into Ministry and Thriving in Ministry programs. In both, PLC members are all clergy working in the same ministry context.
Leaders find themselves asking a question like, “How can I respond in this situation I’m in with this person?” For a priest who is part of a Launching or Thriving PLC, it is not necessary to describe the particular dynamics of their parish or current challenges. Because the PLC members share the ministry context, they immediately understand the dynamics at play and challenges faced. The benefit of gathering with colleagues who share one’s ministry experience rather than members of the gathering spending time each describing their specific context, the priests can move into deeper levels of reflection and problem solving for one another.
For example, your parish might include a lay leader whose “help” is becoming increasingly less helpful. How does a priest address this delicate situation? PLC members can delve into the question first by considering the role and actions of the lay leader. Soon, though, the discussion gets progressively deeper, plumbing parish history, the emotional systems evident in the parish, points of leverage or change, and, most importantly, the ways the priest interacts with each.
The PLC can pose questions relevant to both the priest and the lay leader: What needs to change for the priest and for the lay leader? What is the pace of change for the parish? What leadership decisions or situational framing does the clergyperson need to articulate? Going deeper, the group can reflect on how the clergy leader put her or his fingerprints on the situation. Finally, the PLC member presenting the situation specifically describes the type of help her or she needs from the group.
The power of a Peer Learning Community is that all learners move beyond a resigned, “This is the way the situation is going to be” to “This is how we move forward” –forward movement toward the ways God intends that priest and congregation to thrive.
The Rev. Carol Pinkham Oak. D.Min.
Launching into Ministry