Pastoral Care & Development

What is Pastoral Care & Development?

NWC-pastoral-care-and-developmentIn support of our mission to engage, empower and equip healthy, missional leaders we are committed to the care and development of our pastors and ministry staff. This includes focus on both personal and professional growth.

Ministry has become an increasingly challenging vocation because of the unique leadership dynamics in the local church setting. Difficult times are to be expected. Our intent is to be present for personal support and discernment during difficult and confusing times.

We are also seeking to collect and develop resources that can be applied to the care and development of our pastors and ministry staff in the many unique seasons of life and varied ministry contexts.

Why we invest in Care & Development of Ministry Staff?

  • Separate studies by the Alban Institute and Duke University reveal anywhere between 50% and 85% of pastors leave ministry within the first 5 years out of seminary.
  • A comprehensive study in 2004 by the Louisville Institute found key factors in clergy attrition included: “We were not well connected,” “We did not see matters of self-care and self-discipline,” and “We were not able to manage or resolve conflict.”
  • Ministry staff members are in positions of great influence and great vulnerability.
  • We feel blessed to have the opportunity to try to reverse the trend in our Conference. To do that we are addressing some of the key risk factors mentioned above.

Healthy peer connections make all the difference.

We care deeply about our pastors and ministry staff. Knowing that we are better together, we seek to build and encourage healthy group connections and solid spiritual friendships. This happens through formal and informal gatherings.

The 15 NWC districts are drawn along geographic lines with anywhere from 5 to 12 churches per district. Most of these groups meet monthly during the school year. In addition, we have affinity groups are targeted at those with similar specializations, similar stages in their church development, or similar places in their personal journey, such as:

  • Camp Staff
  • Chaplains
  • Children and Family Pastors
  • Church Planters
  • Clergy Women
  • Retired Pastors
  • Revitalization Pastors
  • Youth Pastors


We have many opportunities for counseling, referrals, spiritual direction and coaching in order to help pastors navigate challenging personal or professional situations like job loss, marriage trauma and health crisis—to name a few. It is also a privilege to serve in some very significant public services like the installation of pastors and ministry staff or funerals for clergy or clergy spouses.

Healthy leaders are essential to thriving churches.

The role of a leader requires support and encouragement. We need to provide opportunities for such leaders to be strengthened in their souls. Parker Palmer writes in “A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life”:

“The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush.”

Today’s challenging environment often sends the leader’s soul into the underbrush. While leaders are usually in very visible roles, their souls can go into hiding; sometimes hiding not only from the things that threaten but even the things that would nurture them, like their own personal relationship with the Lord. Among all the things we are about, helping pastors cultivate and maintain a close relationship with Jesus is the greatest leadership asset we can encourage.

We care deeply about our pastors.

The conference staff provides coaching, training seminars, and timely resources for our pastors and other ministry personnel. In addition we provide support for our clergy families when needed.

We want to have pastors who are delighted with God and cannot wait to share this delight with their congregations. Our pastors are continually upheld in prayer. We are committed to help them be the faithful spiritual leaders that God has called them to be.

Connecting your ministry staff with great resources and partnerships.

We continue to build lists of resources that will contribute to the care and development of pastors. The lists include: counseling services, books, classes, seminars, retreat centers.

As a way of modeling our value of connections, we carry out our work in partnership with other groups that have common work and mission. This includes local, regional and national partnerships.

Local The Clergy Care Team includes pastors from each district who are in quarterly contact with the Covenant credentialed clergy in their districts. We work with the Clergy Care Committee to gather the whole team twice a year for training and collaboration.

Regional There is an ongoing partnership with the Officers of the Ministerial Association in helping with the planning of events for our Covenant credentialed staff. When the Committee on Ministerial Standing meets to interview people for license or ordination, we sit as advisory members on the interview teams. The Spiritual Directors Network is another valuable resource.

National The Department of the Ordered Ministry staff in Chicago are our partners in the care of pastors going through crisis and in the development of pastoral skills and stamina through the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program.

Sustaining Pastoral Excellence

The Sustaining Pastoral Excellence initiative exists to connect pastor, missionaries and chaplains in the Evangelical Covenant Church with the resources necessary to sustain them throughout their ministerial journey.

We define Pastoral Excellence as, “a grace-filled, relational journey that involves holistic Christ-centered character development, lifelong, vocational and Biblical formation, and regular occasions of renewal and re-visioning that sustain healthy enduring ministry.”

This program provides grants in the areas of: Character, Competence and Constancy.

Grants are available to Covenant ministers with at least two years of experience and who are currently active in full-time pastoral, chaplaincy or mission ministry through the Evangelical Covenant Church. In addition, ministers must hold one of the following Covenant credentials:

  • Ordained to Word and Sacrament
  • Ordained to Specialized Ministry
  • Commissioned Staff Minister
  • Consecrated Missionary
  • Ministry License
  • World Mission License

All ministerial association dues must be current for the last two years.

This initiative is made possible through generous grants provided by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. and financial support from The Covenant Ministerial Association, Regional Conferences and individual donors. Contact The ECC Department of Ordered Ministry for more information.

Spiritual Direction

“How goes your walk with Christ?” “Are you yet alive in Christ?” These are questions that have been with our denomination since its founding. Our seminary, North Park, has a Center for Spiritual Direction where people (both pastors and laypeople) can receive training. We have many qualified Spiritual Directors in the Northwest Conference who are available to meet with people both in-person and online, and both individually and in groups. Call the NWC office, or email Hollis Kim, for more information. Download the Spiritual Direction Brochure (pdf) to learn more.

Clergy Care

The NWC and the denomination are committed to providing spiritual and emotional support to our pastors. Our conference staff is available to listen, counsel and encourage our pastors. We assist pastors with issues of insurance and compensation, as well as provide guidance to them and our congregations in the placement process. The conference Superintendent is a member of the Denominational Pastoral Relations Committee.