By Wendy Bailey
How many pastors find there’s something major they encounter in their first call that no one in seminary had prepared them for? Just about everyone. The first few years of a pastor’s ministry can be extremely stressful as they negotiate new terms of call, copy machines, pastoral care issues, boundaries in friendships and relationships, and the list goes on. The Early Ministry Institute (EMI) of the Synod of the Northeast is designed to help alleviate that stress and support a pastor during their first few years of ministry.
The EMI program consists of a four-day residency at Stony Point Conference Center in the spring of each of three years. Contact and support is maintained between our weeks at Stony Point through social and professional contacts, email, and social media. In addition, an individualized coaching program is available to all participants during their second year of the program.
The four-day annual residency builds relationships and support, offers mentorship, and provides needed information to answer the cry, “I never learned this in seminary?!?!” Through worship, prayer, small group cohort meetings, affinity groups, counseling, spiritual direction, campfires, canoeing, workshops and plenary meetings, the program builds on a common theme: the care of the pastor. The themes also follow a three-year cycle focusing on the pastor’s relationship with themselves, the church and the larger community.
In June, the EMI design team determined that the theme for EMI 2017 is “Let the Church Rise: Equipping and Empowering the Pastor.” The focus is on the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical fitness of the pastor and congregation. Our workshops this year will deal with the topics that are nitty gritty … like how to plan a wedding or funeral, planning meetings that work, or how to manage clergy taxes … as well as the more theoretical … like spiritual practices, conflict resolution, dealing with trauma and crisis in the church and maintaining healthy relationships.
On one day those who chose to can take a trip to New York city for a Broadway show and a nice dinner in the theater district. Last year, the group saw The Color Purple. While the show is still to be determined, we always manage to see an up and coming hit that is soon after featured on the Tony Awards.
Now is the time to start inviting newly ordained and commissioned pastors to consider EMI. Installed Pastors, contracted pastors, chaplains and commissioned pastors are all eligible for the three-year program. They can contact EMI directly to register, or they can be referred through the presbytery’s Committee on Ministry.