Pastoral Formation & Rehabilitation Groups

The process of ordination is arduous and complex. Committees on Ministry and other denominational entities charged with the responsibility of evaluating, guiding, mentoring, and approving candidates for ordination are sometimes faced with the challenge of a candidate who appears to be appropriate for consideration yet presents with a need for further growth and development. Examples of some of these needs are:

  • dealing with authority
  • anger management
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • pastoral identity
  • understanding group dynamics
  • setting and maintaining professional boundaries

The New England Pastoral Institute offers Pastoral Formation Groups as a resource to enhance the task of the denomination and to provide the opportunity for a positive and nurturing ordination process for candidates who have obstacles in their ordination process. The following are required for admission to a group:

  • Referral from denominational entity
  • Identified goals for work in the group
  • Pre-group interviews with therapist
  • Consent for communication between group leader and denomination
  • Must attend every meeting
  • Candidate in a experiential setting such as field education, internship, chaplaincy, etc.

The Pastoral Formation groups meet for 12 consecutive weeks for 2-hour sessions and are limited to no more than 6 members. Each participant is responsible for bringing his/her learning goals to the group. The group is responsible for working with each member on their individual goals. Each session consists of two sections.

In the first hour participants present case studies from their experiential settings. The group reflects on the material presented in light of the goals that the presenter has for group process. This gives the opportunity to reflect on actual life events and to challenge the presenter in areas for growth or change and to affirm where growth or change is demonstrated.

The second hour is dedicated to group psychotherapy consisting of intensive opportunities for insights, growth and healing. In the dynamics of this experience the issues requiring growth or change actually come alive in the session through projection and transference. This invites reflection on "here and now" dynamics that enable each member of the group to learn from the experience.

The final two sessions are dedicated to generating an evaluation for each member of the group. Group members evaluate each other openly and honestly. The measures for the evaluations are based on the individual goals for the group. The person being evaluated is then responsible for writing up a formal statement of the evaluation and submit it to the therapist. The therapist adds whatever additional comments are appropriate and copies are sent to the referring denominational body as well as to the group member.

Rehabilitation Groups

Committees on Ministries are also charged with the responsibility to hear complaints filed against ordained clergy. They then must determine the appropriate action required to address each situation. When the decision is the maintain the ordained standing of the clergy and institute a rehabilitation and/or education plan, a Rehabilitation group can be very useful. Pastors referred for rehabilitation are in groups designed solely for that purpose. They do not participate in the formation groups. The format for the Rehabilitation groups is the same as for the Formation groups with particular emphasis on the issues unique to the rehabilitation process. The evaluation process has the intentional focus of "fitness for ministry." The goal for these groups is not so much "formation" as it is "remediation." Since isolation is one of the common factors in clergy professional misconduct, these groups provide an intense experience of group vulnerability and consultation.

Contact us for more information.