By Carl Stagner
Pastors, you are not alone. Across the country, in your state, and likely even in your community there are other men and women called to preach the gospel just like you. They spend countless hours in study, sermon prep, visitation, counseling, event planning, fundraising, and cleaning the bathrooms, too. Like you, they shepherd a flock with its beauty and its imperfections. So why do so many pastors go it alone? In the Church of God, state assemblies and regions have discovered the power of SHAPE—Sustaining Health and Pastoral Excellence—to bring pastors together in fellowship, networking, and accountability. About twenty state or regional assemblies have been encouraged by the impact of SHAPE on their pastors and, by extension, their congregations. Now SHAPE is on the move, and its destination is Virginia.
It almost always begins with the regional pastor. Regional pastors are key to bringing the SHAPE experience to their region, for when they realize the far-reaching benefits, they want it for their pastors. Virginia is no exception. Bob Neace, state minister for the Church of God in Virginia, became convinced that SHAPE was the tool that could bring the pastors of the state together. Surely a movement that values unity could be connected by more than the name or logo on the church sign.
The day before the Virginia pastors convened their quarterly meeting, they presented the SHAPE concept. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Before the ministers went home, one local church had already committed to underwriting some of the training costs!
Bob Neace explains the decision of the assembly: “I’ve heard very positive things in other regions where SHAPE has been implemented. We’d done a boot camp for pastors a year ago, and out of that was birthed a cluster that has been very active and a tremendous benefit for my own spiritual well-being. I’m anticipating seeing the kind of positive responses in other areas begin to happen in our state, too.”
Paul Dreger, national coordinator for SHAPE, couldn’t be more excited for the expansion of SHAPE. To be clear, however, his excitement lies not in the growth of the program itself, but in the potential for continued revitalization of community among pastors. “The goal of SHAPE was never to be self-perpetuating,” he explains. “The goal is to change the culture of community in the Church of God. If we see that happening, we’ve succeeded.” Paul explains that, in fact, a few states are very intentional about community and accountability in a fashion similar to SHAPE, though they’ve not actually adopted the SHAPE blueprint. For states and regions that need work in the areas of pastoral health, community, and accountability, SHAPE is a practical option.
On the heels of the expansion of SHAPE into Barbados, Paul rejoices that God is still laying the groundwork for spiritually healthy pastors. “I’m excited about the Virginia launch because of the enthusiasm of the participants,” he concludes. “It’s been wonderful to see the diversity of the leadership, but also to see how they are grasping the concepts and are already using them in their preaching and teaching. In the eight years I’ve been in this role, I’m probably seeing the most enthusiasm from the launch groups in Barbados and Virginia than from all the others I’ve done. This is making an impact on the pastors’ lives and congregational life, as well as how they will minister to their communities. And we’re just getting started.”
SHAPE leaders aim for a formal launch in Virginia by the end of the year.
Learn more about SHAPE at www.jesusisthesubject.org/shape/. Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/.