Peer Learning Groups Overview
What is peer learning?
Peer learning occurs when people in similar life circumstances share common or related experiences, then reflect on them together over a period of time. We believe that learning with peers can reinforce lessons, increase accountability, and minimize isolation among pastors. Peer learning implies that no one person is the leader.
What is the peer learning program?
It’s a program to encourage groups of Christian Reformed Church (CRC) pastors to grow in ministry and to support, care for, and encourage one another. The Peer Learning program has funds available to support groups of four to eight pastors.
Who is the program for?
It’s intended to assist pastors serving in congregational ministry in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA). A pastor is understood to be an individual who is ordained and pastoring a congregation in a parish setting. Pastors from other denominations may be a part of a peer group if the majority of pastors are CRC. Ordinarily, a person may not be a part of two different peer groups at the same time. The groups must be made up of peers, with no one person acting as a coach, leader, or mentor for the group. Spousal involvement is encouraged. Pastors in specialized ministry, such as chaplains, may be part of a peer group but the focus of the group must be on parish ministry.
How does the funding work?
The Peer Learning program is funded through Denominational Ministry Shares. Pastor Church Resources offers grants to groups of pastors who covenant to learn together. These pastors submit proposals to support that learning which are then reviewed and approved by the Proposal Review Team. Because funds are limited, some proposals may not receive funding.
What kind of proposal is required?
We encourage a variety of proposals. A one-size-fits-all approach to peer learning would be inappropriate. Plans can include prayer, worship, Bible study, joint conference/retreat attendance, visits to churches of different cultural make-up than the group members, etc. As each group of pastors is unique, so too will be the groups’ plans.
What do I have to do to submit a proposal?
- Carefully read this entire overview document.
- Complete the application form.
- Designate one group member as the coordinator; the coordinator must be a CRC pastor.
- Designate one group member as the treasurer; the treasurer may not be the same person as coordinator.
- List all confirmed group members. We aren't able to work with "members to be determined."
Here is a completed sample application to assist you as you work on your proposal.
How long does a peer learning grant last?
The grant period is one year - understood as either as a ten month “school year” or a full twelve months. Ordinarily, applications for a new/1st time peer group will be given priority over peer groups seeking renewal. Peer groups may receive a maximum of two grants in a 5-year period. The 5-year period begins on the date when the first grant is awarded. For example: If the first grant is awarded in May 2014 (and a 2nd grant has been received after that) the peer group may apply for another “1st time grant” any time after May 2019.
The hope is that groups can be self-sustaining after their grant period is completed.
How often is the peer group required to meet?
Peer groups are required to meet a minimum of four times but are encouraged to meet more often if possible. A meeting is generally a face-to-face gathering. However, groups with members who are geographically distant may have a difficult time having four (or more) face-to-face meetings. If this is the case, groups are encouraged to include conference calls (phone or video) as a way to meet without having to travel. A conference call is considered a meeting. There may be other creative ways to gather. As long as “all” of the group members are present, the gathering is considered a meeting. Groups whose members are geographically distant are required to have at least one face-to-face meeting.
What size grant will be given?
The maximum grant awarded is $3,000 USD. However, special consideration will be given to peer groups with a higher budget due to members that are geographically distant and as a result, will have higher travel costs for meetings.
Please note the following two policies regarding attending continuing education events/retreats:
- Attending a regional (within reasonable driving distance) continuing education event/retreat is encouraged. Ordinarily attendance at such events will be given funding priority over other events.
- Ordinarily the funds requested for a continuing education event/retreat will account for 50% or less of the total amount requested. Exemptions will be considered. If an exception is requested, please state the rationale as to why the costs are higher than 50% of the budget.
Are any in-kind or other matching contributions required?
No. However, peer groups are encouraged to make such contributions when they can, as a way of enhancing their ability to continue beyond the term of the grant. These may come from peer group members, the churches involved, or other sources.
What will the grant money cover?
Peer learning grants are intended to cover a range of possible expenses, including learning resources (books, DVDs, etc.), travel, conference registration, and refreshments for meeting times.
Grant money may not be used to: offset other organizational or personal expenses; cover activities initiated prior to the grant; cover the purchase of any equipment; pay for items not listed in the grant proposal; purchase alcohol; any expenses for children to join their parent(s) at peer group meetings/events; travel outside of Canada/the United States; or compensate either the coordinator or the treasurer for their work with the grant nor any other administrative expenses associated with the peer group.
What happens when a proposal is approved?
A proposal agreement and instructions will be sent to the coordinator. The agreement must be signed by group members. The coordinator is responsible for implementation of the agreement. The signed agreement, and revised proposal if required, are to be returned to Pastor Church Resources within 90 days. Failure to do so may result in the grant being reversed.
One half of the grant amount will be sent to the group treasurer's church. (An amount greater than one half may be sent, but only if warranted by the nature of the proposal.) The other half will be sent after six months, pending receipt of the group’s first written and financial reports. At the end of the proposal year, unused funds must be returned.
Is there a deadline for submitting proposals?
Yes. Peer learning proposals are considered twice a year. The deadlines for submitting them are May 1 and November 1. We ask that proposals be submitted electronically whenever possible. Receipt of proposal will be acknowledged with an email to the coordinator - usually within 24 hours. If you have not heard from our office, please call to verify that the proposal was received. Groups are strongly encouraged to submit a draft proposal a few weeks in advance of the due date. This allows time for any fine-tuning that may be needed.
The Peer Learning program will send notice to applicants by June 1 and December 1 about grants awarded.
Are there any reporting requirements?
The group coordinator is asked to submit a simple six month report that describes the group’s experiences. The group treasurer is asked to submit a financial report, including receipts, which accounts for use of the grant funds. On receipt of both reports, the remainder of the funds will be sent. At the end of a group’s year of peer learning, the coordinator provides a short final report of activities, outcomes, and learning. The group treasurer provides a final financial report with receipts.
Note: Upon approval of a peer learning proposal, specific reporting information and forms will be sent to the coordinator.
What else do I need to know?
The Proposal Review Team may, in some cases, approve a proposal pending the group making required revisions to the group plan and/or the budget.
Information in peer learning proposals and in reports may be used by Pastor Church Resources on its website, in its promotional materials, or in its reporting to the CRCNA's Council of Delegates and/or to synod. No financial information will be shared outside of Pastor Church Resources.
For further information please contact Kim Rankens at 877-279-9994 x2837 or via email at [email protected].