The Pastoral Excellence Program


We believe our Pastoral Excellence Program offers a profoundly hopeful vision for the future of the church.
We believe excellent pastors create excellent churches.

The purpose of the Pastoral Excellence Program is to develop, promote, and sustain excellent pastoral leadership for the churches in the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ and to create a model which can be used by other Conferences around the country.
Pastoral excellence is a way of life marked by character, competence and constancy and is practiced in community. To that end, we have created a vibrant conference-wide network of small groups and large learning events for clergy in every season and calling of ministry.  Through offering opportunities for collegial support and ongoing development in the practices of pastoral ministry we strive in increase ministers' sense of job satisfaction while magnifying their success in their ministerial setting.


At the heart of the Pastoral Excellence Program are clergy peer groups which provide a regular forum for pastors to meet with other pastors whose calling is similar to their own.  In this setting, best practices and resources can be shared, common issues and problems explored and the often isolating nature of a ministerial calling remedied. 

New Clergy Groups  are designed for clergy in their first three years of ministry.  NCGs  meet monthly in small groups of three to five, assisted by a more experienced pastor who is trained to serve as facilitator and mentor.

Here, new pastors find the support and guidance they need to navigate the transition from seminary into pastoral ministry. They will learn best practices for meeting the challenges of the first years of ministry and develop habits that will enable them to thrive for a lifetime of effective service.  There is a fee of $150 per year to participate in a New Clergy Group.

Clergy Communities of Practice offer more experienced pastors opportunities to hone their practices of ministry and develop meaningful and supportive collegial relaltionships.

Counteracting the risks of isolation and burnout, Clergy Communities of Practice are designed to help clergy navigate the challenges of ministry and enhance growth.  There is a fee of $250 per year to participate in a Clergy Community of Practice.

Continuing Education and Learning Events:
Colloquies offer opportunities for focused learning and discussion on particular topics, such as navigating conflict and change, clergy writing institutes, and worship planning for liturgical seasons. An annual series for graduating seminarians helps to equip them for the search and call process.  These Conference-wide learning events widen the circle of conversation beyond the clergy groups. Some of these colloquies are designed for congregational teams of pastors and lay leaders.

In the Pastoral Excellence Program of the Massachusetts Conference, UCC:

  • Our pastors are intentional about sharing with their colleagues their resources for ministry and ideas of things they have tried with their own congregations.
  • Our pastors are growing in faith and wisdom, finding their commitment to pastoral ministry reaffirmed and their appreciation of one another as friends and colleagues deepened.
  • Our Pastoral Excellence Program groups are nurturing a more generous and compassionate spirit in our clergy, enabling them to more fully inhabit a pastoral identity and to stay in touch with the real joy of ministry.

Excellent Ministry Needs Excellent Support

There is an increasing sense that this ministry in which we are engaged is a shared endeavor, a communal venture, a covenantal commitment. Together we are exploring what it means to live faithfully as Christ’s disciples in this day and what it is that God is calling the church to be and do at this time.

Excellent ministry:

  • requires practice;
  • is collegial;
  • is embodied;
  • operates best with a balance of agency and accountability; and
  • must be properly resourced.

We will increase our efforts to broaden and deepen our program, to make its practices and resources available to the wider church, and to follow the implications of our insights into new areas of inquiry regarding pastoral excellence and congregational vitality.

Who has participated?

478 pastors have participated in New Clergy Groups or Clergy Communities of Practice.

Over 400 local congregations have been represented in the New Clergy Groups or Clergy Communities of Practice.

There have been 155 Colloquies - or learning events - in which pastors have participated, representing hundreds of  congregations.

Currently, there are 35 facilitators leading these New Clergy Groups and Clergy Communities of Practice.