I participated in a readiness consultation Friday before last, which in a sentence is a meeting with my clinical supervisor and a small circle who’ve read more than a hundred pages about me and my ministry for the purpose giving me feedback on my ministry as a pastoral educator, particularly as I start supervisory education. It was a consultation that was as much for my supervisor as it was for me. We attended and participated together.
I’ve been a pastor for nearly fifteen years, serving my current church for just over nine and my first church for five. I’ve taught in two seminaries, including my own seminary for the last seven years. I’ve led small groups and taught others to lead them. I’ve been in peer group consultations as a CPE student. I’ve been in individual therapy and couples counseling. Of course, I’ve been around the table with people who know me. I’ve developed and practiced clearness committees in my own life. And I have not had an experience like a readiness consultation.
I’ve gotten feedback before. I’ve been in spiritual direction and been supervised during clinical pastoral education, which are the closest experiences to a readiness consultation. But the purposes of those moments are distinct.
Spiritual direction is a monthly time where my director listens to me, hears me, and helps me hear me as we listen for the “grace that I need.” I’ve gone to direction for seven years and it’s a jewel in my spiritual life. I wouldn’t be in pastoral ministry if I wasn’t in direction.
In my experience, clinical supervision is based upon the agenda that I bring and for the purpose of my growth, learning, and strength as a minister to people. I have supervision weekly, and it’s based upon my needs for my work. It’s a gift because the feedback, the Q&A is directly applicable for what I’m doing, thinking, and processing.
My readiness consultation was a compressed combination of both those types of experiences. Readiness was this huge collection and assembling of myself in order to present myself to chaplain and supervisors in order for them to help me prepare for what’s next.
Since every consultation is unique, my sense is that their questions for me were their questions for me. These meetings are tailored to what materials are sent and to the questions the presenter raised when thinking through the materials. So it was an individualized time of conversation. I led it based upon where I needed things to go.
Even though we only got through 4-5 questions in the hour and a half time, the words spoken went deep. It wouldn’t help for me to post them because you didn’t read my materials or the presenter’s report. Still, they were well-written, reflective comments and questions which had me thinking about me, about others, and about the ministry of supervision.
I will be reflecting on that consultation for a couple weeks. Really. But here are a few immediate takeaways that I expand to you even if you’re not in CPE:
- Having assembled myself in written form, I’m only clearer about my work as a pastoral leader in multiple contexts. I serve the church and I serve the hospital, and I have a greater sense of why.
- Writing is an indispensable leadership act. Leaders should be asked to, and able to, articulate critical things about themselves such as a brief history of her life, a theology of ministry, and a statement about his motivations.
- No matter how much you prepare, being aware of (and being able to tell) your stories will always connect you to another person. Stories are human tools, and the more we share them, the more human we become.
- Experiencing something like a readiness consultation is important for pastoral leaders, be it in a clergy group, a therapy support group, a circle of trust, a gathering of church elders or trusted friends. We need people–whenever we serve–to raise quality questions about us, about our plans, about our readiness.
- Driving to a meeting a few hours away provides needed space to prepare beforehand and to reflect after upon words graciously spoken. Most of my time in the car is productive or destination-based and doesn’t leave room to think, and traveling to Wisconsin was contemplative space.
- Process is more important than content. Attending to what’s happening in us is more interesting than the obvious stuff.
- Talking to people is a gift. Being heard and being seen are gifts too, and I’m more thankful for spiritual direction, for quality supervision, and for slow, considered words when they’re spoken.