Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Peer Supervision

Everyone, at least everyone in ministry, knows how lonely and hard it can be. Having a second voice to keep you sane and help you reflect is vitally important. The second voice gives you a safe place to let go of all the frustrations and heartaches, to share all the joys and highs with someone who knows what it feels like to walk this road of the servant leader.

The question is will peer supervision provide that place? For some I think it will, for others I'm not so sure. The concept is fundamentally sound. The principle of having a fixed relationship with another practitioner who will listen to the issues, share the journey and ask the tough questions is good. Whether that needs to be a single voice is up for grabs.

In Bedford I was privileged to be part of a small group of ministers who met once a month. Some might call it a fraternal, but it was more than many a fraternal of which I've been a part. We shared our stories, we listened to the questions, we never judged each other. We prayed for each other and we never let each other get away with simply moaning about things. Maybe above everything else, we knew we were not alone. We knew that some of the questions for which we had no answer were questions we shared in common. And none of us had answers for them!

So, yesterday was a valuable day. Initially I thought it was an information day, but it turned out to be a taster day. Fortunately my partner for the day had come to see in the same way I had come to see, so we talked about how the process might work for us and what we might do without actually committing ourselves to the process.

The biggest challenge to any process of peer supervision or peer mentoring is that you moan together. That you share sympathy and avoid responsibility. But that can be avoided. The other area of concern is the assumption that we all begin with the skills needed to offer this kind of mutual support. Those who have trained in counselling will approach the task with skills and questions that are not necessarily possessed by every minister no matter how competent they might be.

Personally, I'm still looking for the level of friendship and support I had previously. Perhaps it's an unrealistic search!

Of course none of this takes away from the process of reflection and prayer that should be the practice of every leader. Self-mentoring or self-leadership is an area in which we can all develop. Taking time to reflect on pastoral situations and leadership issues, personal discipline and spiritual growth is healthy. I bet there's a website somewhere about that.

I know I go on about it, but keeping a journal is a really helpful tool, especially if you review it. You can learn a lot about the recurring themes that are impacting your ministry. It can also help you get a perspective on things. Perhaps the reason you are feeling down about something is because you haven't really faced it, truly faced it. Your journal will show you this is you're honest when you write and when you read it back.

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