Peer power

May 25, 2011

Some years ago, medical researchers at Vanderbilt considered
how best to intervene with doctors whose patients had complained about their
unprofessional behavior. What worked in most cases, they
found
(pdf), was not an official reprimand, but the "cup of coffee"
method--a one-to-one conversation with a peer, who simply pointed out to the
doctor what had been observed and urged them to reflect on it.

Learning excellence in the art of doctoring turns out to
have a lot to do with the influence of peers.

This finding is even more relevant when it comes to the art
of ministry. A decade-long project funded by the Lilly Endowment to support
pastoral excellence concluded
that pastors flourish when they have sustained, honest conversations with peers
in ministry.

Pastors need other pastors with whom they can share their
wisdom and resources--and their conflicts and failures. Pastors also need peers
to whom they are accountable not as employees but as friends and fellow
believers.

Some evidence suggests
that having such a peer group helps pastors avoid behavior that leads to a
professional reprimand. Abundant evidence suggests that having a peer group
keeps pastors energized for ministry and helps them avoid the morass of lonely
frustration.