For the past couple of years, faith leaders have found a safe space where they can gather to share their struggles, joys, and concerns.
A virtual monthly clergy support group, sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health Faith and Health Partnerships, has provided faith leaders with fellowship, respite – and a place to ‘just be,’ says the Rev. Dr. Darryl Jenkins, pastor of Faith Community Church, Itasca, Ill., who co-facilitates the group with Amy McNicholas, LCPC, Illinois Manager, Advocate Aurora Faith and Health Partnerships.
“Pastors are overwhelmed with many facets of their ministry and personal life,” Darryl said. “Oftentimes they don’t know where to turn. But this program has created a space for them to flesh out their feelings and know they are not alone.”
“The group has even helped reignite participants’ passion for their vocation,” Darryl added.
During the sessions, Amy and Darryl remind participants of the importance of self-care, “not only as a necessity to their overall health and wellbeing, but also to their ability to best serve their congregation and community,” Amy said.
And when faith leaders’ conversations gravitate toward congregational care and their concern for the communities they serve, Amy and Darryl redirect participants’ focus back to themselves to help them tune in to their own needs and feelings. “Self-care is not being insensitive to others; rather, it is caring for yourself, so you can better care for others,” Darryl added.
A nimble format
Each session includes a centering activity and discussion on a topic, such as resilience, resolution, vulnerability, loneliness, and strategies to avoid burnout. In addition, Amy and Darryl share resiliency resources, like simple meditation techniques and deep-breathing exercises – everyday practices that faith leaders can incorporate into their busy schedules.
“While we set an agenda, we always leave time for the Holy Spirit to reshape our conversation,” Darryl said. “There are real-time movements that take place during the session. It can be emotional and pragmatic. There have been times when we started out in one direction, and the Holy Spirit led us in another direction. And what emerged was far better than what we could ever have planned.”
Starting out as strangers, becoming friends
The group is comprised of male and female clergy of various ethnic and denominational backgrounds from the greater Chicago and Milwaukee areas.
Initially, some faith leaders were reluctant to join the support group. “They may have started to come because they thought they should,” Amy said. “But over time, it has turned into their group, and they look forward to attending.”
“The power of the group has been really beautiful to watch,” Amy added. “For Darryl and me, it’s been such a privilege to be involved.”
The two look forward to supporting more clergy and possibly expanding the program to include wellness retreats.
Interested in learning more? Contact:
Amy McNicholas, firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-612-1124
Dr. Darryl Jenkins, email@example.com, 630-809-9698