Affinity Groups

Affinity Groups

An Affinity Group gathers several times per year around a specific topic, learning goal or type of ministry work. These groups are led by a topic expert who plans each gathering, resources the group and facilitates group conversations.  These Affinity Groups are conducive to creating a safe space in which clergy can learn and grow through deep sharing and honest reflection.

Unmasking Grief: A Safe Harbor for Pastoral Healing Affinity Group

In this affinity group, you're not just a pastor, but a 'Hero' embarking on a crucial journey of personal growth and healing. Your problem: unprocessed grief, perhaps masked behind the strong front you present to your congregation and family. You bear the burdens of others, but who bears yours? Your solution: find a way to process this information among trusted peers who meet regularly, where each member of the group is 100% committed to the success of every other member in the group. You will find this within this affinity group.

Each session will run for 90 minutes. In the first 30 minutes, you will be introduced to a new concept to think about. In the next 60 minutes, you will have an opportunity to share your grief and receive support from the coach and the rest of the group. 

 In the following six sessions, we will focus on your journey of Transformation: Acknowledging your Grief, Identifying the Guide, Understanding Challenges, Sharing the Burden, Crafting the Plan, and Envisioning Victory & Transformation.

Six sessions will take place on September 7, October 19, November 30, January 25, March 7 and April 18 from 10-11:30 am. Registration may be found here.

Rev. Joe McGarry -  my initiation into the world of coaching began in 2018 when I was introduced to the idea at the inspiring conference, 'Free the Dream.' The conference unveiled to me a passion that had long been simmering within me - a passion to coach, guide, and facilitate personal development in others. Committed to my newfound calling, I continued my professional journey by enrolling in a Level 1 coaching training program offered by my judicatory, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Following successful completion, I moved on to the more advanced Level 2 training, with its unique focus on nurturing mission developers. My commitment to coaching led me to undertake training as a 'Together We Thrive' coach. This invaluable experience accelerated my professional development by offering deep insights into coaching dynamics and enhancing my practical skills. This cohort of coaches ended in 2021 when I completed the training. I experienced another milestone as I obtained my Professional Coaching Certification through the International Coaching Federation.

As I further advanced in my coaching journey, I was increasingly confronted with the harsh reality of loss and grief, a common thread running through the narratives of those I coached. I was also involved with a church on the brink of closure, which in itself had a profound impact of grief and loss. These experiences guided me to a specialized coaching training program dedicated to those grappling with grief and end-of-life issues.  The transformational power of this approach lies in the simple act of acknowledging and understanding the individual's grief. Since receiving my certification, I have had the privilege to walk alongside many individuals wrestling with grief, helping them process their feelings and discover a new path forward. This has been a deeply fulfilling and profoundly rewarding aspect of my coaching journey, and I am committed to continuing this meaningful work.

Millennials in Ministry

This group is open to all authorized/rostered/parochial ministers born in years 1980-1995.  Led by a millennial pastor and leader, it will explore the unique joys, perspectives and challenges of those serving the church in our current context, through mutual leadership development and resource sharing, as well as connection among group members.

Rev. Liz Miller will be group lead collaborator and liaison for this affinity group. The affinity group will consist of six sessions on Wednesday afternoons from 1-3 pm, on September 6, October 18, November 15, 2023 and January 17, February 28 and April 17, 2024. Register for the affinity group here.

LGBTQ+ Affinity Group

The LGBTQ+ Affinity Group is for individuals who identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and are ordained clergy (pastor, minister, deacon, elder) in their church or congregation. The group will meet virtually every six weeks to explore the possible topics of: obtaining a job as LGBTQ+ clergy; pitfalls of being LGBTQ+ clergy; reading Scripture through a queer lens; politics and religion—never shall the two meet—or should they?

Group sessions will take place on Tuesday mornings from 10 am til noon EST on October 10, November 21, January 9, February 20, April 2 and May 7. Registration for the affinity group is available here.

 Rev. Nicole M. Garcia, M.A. LPC (she/her) will be group lead collaborator and liaison for this affinity group. She is a queer transgender Latina who currently serves as the Faith Work Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force. Nicole earned an M.A. in Counseling from CU Denver and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Colorado. Nicole earned a Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul MN and is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Nicole works to lift the voices of multiple faith and spiritual perspectives with an emphasis on amplifying the voices of Black and Brown people while partnering with faith-based nonprofit organizations to carry out faith-based organizing to achieve impact.  Nicole is dedicated to preaching queer liberation theology and is passionate about doing the work of moving social justice from a concept to reality.

Cultivating Resilience Affinity Group

The need for resilience is great! This is an especially challenging time for clergy, as overwhelm and burnout have increased exponentially since the pandemic. Resiliency provides the tools to “bounce back” from setbacks, adapt to change, and move forward in difficult times. Fortunately, resiliency is not an inherent trait that only some people have, but rather consists of a series of learned practices. This Affinity Group is for clergy who wish to grow resilience and to make resiliency practices part of life. 

This group will meet for six sessions on the first Thursday of the month from 2-4 pm; first session September 14, thereafter the first Thursday – October 5, November 2, December 7, January 4 and February 1. Registration available here.

Rev. Judith Cooke is a Resilience Coach who delights in helping people find the clarity they need that moves them to a life they love. Her coaching focus is with clergy, caregivers, and congregations, who are struggling with overwhelm and burnout. After earning a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, she has served as a pastor in the United Church of Christ for over twenty years. Judith is also a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation, with an additional certification in Resilience Coaching through the Leadership Wellness Group. Information about her coaching business, Clarity for Change, can be found at In her personal life, Judith has a supportive husband, an entertaining son, a bed-hog Beabull Humphrey, and an unhealthy relationship with caffeine.


Past Affinity Groups include the following:

Intentional Interim Affinity Group

Interim Ministry is a special calling and one that requires unique skills, gifts and training.  In a time when effective Interim ministers are in high demand and yet often serve in challenging situations, support and colleague connections are even more essential.  Led by a seasoned Interim and experienced Coach, this group seeks to provide a community of colleagues who can challenge, encourage and learn from one another while exploring the context of Intentional Interim Ministry. The second iteration of this affinity group is currently in process.

Becoming More Racially Conscious:  A Learning Journey for White Ministers

These cohort-based sessions create a trusting and confidential environment where white ministers can deepen their understanding of how race shows up at the personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural levels and how they are called to recognize and interrupt racism within their congregations and beyond. When individuals engage in personal reflective work, an understanding of their racial identity development occurs. When people have opportunities to listen and talk to each other in an environment of mutual respect, perspectives on the impact of race in society can change.

Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change

Ask any leader and she will tell you that leading change is hard work. But the hardest part of all? It's the part that almost none of us expect. The most soul-sucking thing for most leaders is not the challenge of a changing world, but overcoming the resistance of our own people to make the changes they need to survive and thrive. 

Ministers of Color Affinity Group

The purpose of this group is to create a mutually supportive, safe space in which ministers of color can develop deeper community, build additional skills for managing and navigating their contexts and systems, and prioritize care of self. Participants also are expected to experience enhanced self-awareness and strengthened leadership capacity. The second iteration of this group is currently in process, led by Rev. Dr. Danielle J. Buhuro.

Touched by Jesus: Playing with Prayer

This group invites participants to step out of their often overly serious and word-filled head by attending to the physicality of grace and praying with childlike playfulness. It is a space to rekindle freedom and trust throughout the body with deep breaths, simple movements, and creative formats.

Clergy Women Connections: Learning to balance, juggle and breathe

Although many denominations profess equality among all people, including clergy of different genders and identifications, female clergy and those who identify as female often experience pejorative treatment from peers, leaders and parishioners. This small group of female and people who identify as female clergy gather to explore the joys and manage the challenges of being in ministry.

The Rainbow Path: Small Group Experience for LGBTQIA+ Clergy

This small group provides an opportunity for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to share the joys and challenges of being in ministry and to receive affirmation and support. It explores areas of common interest and builds further skills for ministry.

Tending the Holy Fires in One Another: Group Spiritual Direction

This small group of up to six participants gathers with an experienced spiritual director to be companions and guides for one another. The primary purpose of this peer group is to listen for God’s presence in the lives and stories of those in the group, applying the lens of theological reflection to everyday life, where God’s Emanuel-ness shines. 

A small portion of the Lilly Endowment grant funding for Together We Thrive and a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation cover a large portion of the cost of running these groups, which allows us to offer these incredible opportunities for a reasonable fee. Payment plans and scholarship suggestions are available; please contact the Program Director for additional information.