The challenges of ministry in the church are numerous. That said, we do it because we are called by God​ and also because we have a conviction that God equips us for this call. Sometimes God’s equipping comes in the form of shared learning. I know that for me those experiences in which I’ve gathered around a table with others and talked through sticking points in my ministry have been invaluable. I love that in the church we are not in it alone. Even more, through these conversations, we spur one another on to ministry that is more freeing and life-giving.

For several years now, Albany Presbytery has been supporting those new to pastoral ministry through its Mentoring Program and specifically with the aid of Keli Rugenstein of Samaritan Counseling Center. Also in this time, teaching elders with a little experience under their belts were being trained by Keli as mentors. Just as in our congregations, we in the presbytery must flex to changing needs. Currently, we have a great group of ready-on-hand mentors, but very few new-to-ministry pastor types. In light of this, for 2016 the Mentor Training Task Force and Keli have put together a “Leadership Coaching Circle” opportunity for actively serving Teaching Elders and Commissioned Ruling Elders. It’s designed to be a living laboratory, where you bring your real-life ministry challenges and work together under Keli’s guidance to apply all that Steinke/Heifetz/Bowen you’ve been reading.

The commitment is one morning a month on the second Saturday of each month. The program kicks off this Saturday (January 9), but we still have several spots open and people are welcome to join even after the first session. Oh, and it’s funded by the presbytery, which comes out to about $100 per person, per session.

I’m thankful for shared learning and shared ministry. I’m thankful for God’s equipping when I’m stuck – and for opportunities to grow as a pastor. I hope you might consider this one such opportunity. If you want more information or want to participate, contact me at

11080595_1557225514502205_2848583347673465874_oElizabeth Shen O’Connor was a Teaching Elder at Brunswick Church. She grew up in the Northwest and now resides in the Northeast. If she has a free hour, more than likely she’s reading a book, watching a cooking show (or actually cooking), dreaming about traveling, or enjoying her family. 

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