S3: A Program for Sustaining Excellence in Ministry

The Sabbath, Study, and Service (S3) program exists to sustain excellence in ministry for clergy. S3 is a collaborative, small group, action learning experience that promotes excellence in ordained ministry. You and your peer group develop and implement a two-year long small group learning experience focused on those three areas: Sabbath, Study, and Service. S3 groups are self-selected and self-directed: you choose the members of your group and you develop the S3 learning project for your group (with direction from the S3 project committee).

“The purpose of an S3 group is to create a sanctuary in time providing a Sabbath environment for five to eight self-chosen participants who desire to spend a significant amount of time together over the next two years. Through Sabbath, study, and service the groups create deep, sustaining, enriching relationships with God and one another that sustain/enhance pastoral excellence through life giving settings of their choosing and creating.”

- Purpose Statement of the S3 Program

Watch this video to learn more about the S3 program from existing S3 groups!

More Information & FAQ

  • S3 is a collaborative, small group, action learning project/experience that will help sustain/promote excellence in ordained ministry. You and your peer group develop and implement a two-year long learning project/experience focused on three areas: Sabbath, Study, and Service.

    If your group is selected to participate in the program, your peer group will be invited to an orientation retreat. At the retreat, you will create your project outline with help from the S3 Project Team. You will also participate in orientation activities, meet a mentor for your group that will provide support and encouragement, and spend a significant amount of time refining your learning project/experience while building community with your new group. Approved peer groups will receive funding through the South Georgia S3 program which will provide $500 per person, per year, for the two years of your group’s learning process – to be used according to the approved learning project/experience.

    You will collaborate with your peer group on the goals designed primarily by your group, with input from the S3 Project Team. The goal is that the lessons and experiences will translate into excellence in your ministry context.

    The original design of the S3 program began at Columbia Theological Seminary and was sponsored by the Lilly Endowment as a part of their “Sustaining Pastoral Excellence” initiative. Since 2003, 49 groups and 297 individuals have participated in Columbia’s S3 project.

    Each of the S3 groups from South Georgia that participated in the Columbia program were self-selected and self-directed: they chose the members of their groups and they developed the S3 learning project for their groups (with direction from the S3 project committee). Each of these groups continues to meet even though they no longer receive funding from S3. The proof of the S3 program’s effectiveness is in the excellent ministry witnessed in the lives and vocations of the participating ministers! S3 has a track record that is extremely successful. S3 works.

  • To participate in the South Georgia S3 Project, the applicant must:

    • Serve as a clergyperson in the South Georgia Conference and be in good standing
    • Commit to participate as a member of a self-selected peer group of five to eight clergy for the length of the project (2 years)
    • Agree with the established project policies and guidelines, including support/mentoring from S3 peer mentors and attending the yearly reflection retreat.
  • Seek out colleagues with whom you will be able to learn and interact during the project. You will want some diversity to ensure a stimulating and rewarding learning experience and enough similarity to enjoy spending Sabbath together. Think creatively about how you could form a S3 group that will contribute to pastoral excellence. You may currently be a part of a peer group that may wish to apply together, or you may wish to create a new group.

    • Your biggest cost is your investment of time and energy that you will make as a part of your peer group. You need to check with your family and your congregation since participating may affect them. The S3 project will require you meet together five times per year for two years. Your meetings should be planned at the beginning of the project and incorporate the core elements of Sabbath, Study, and Service. You will notice that you individual application requires the signature of your Staff Parish Chair, which indicates the approval of your church. You may direct your Staff Parish Relations Committee members to view the short S3 video presentation on the Conference Website. This will help them understand what is being asked of you during the S3 experience and how the church can benefit! When the local church realizes the benefit of the S3 program for their congregation, they are much more supportive of your time away in S3 formation.

    • Your local church or institution will be asked to contribute $150 per year for the two years you are in the program from your continuing education fund to defray costs of your annual retreat. This will allow the church to participate in your learning project and contribute to your program of excellence. As a participant of the South Georgia S3 Program, you will receive ALL your required Continuing Education for the two years of the program! Hopefully, your local church will see the benefit of gaining all your required CEU credits for a $150 investment as a great thing for their pastor and for their budget!

    • You must attend the Annual S3 Orientation Retreat, October 16-18, 2023. The sessions will begin after lunch on Monday and conclude by lunch on Wednesday the 18th (allowing you to return to your church for Wednesday night programs). This retreat will serve as one of your required yearly gatherings and will afford your group significant Sabbath time to be together as you reflect and refine your learning experience.

    • If your application is accepted, the project will fund the costs of implementing your group’s learning plan by providing annual support of $500 per person, per year for the two years required by the program. The S3 program, with the support from your local church, will also cover all your expenses and materials for the annual orientation retreat (room, meals, meeting rooms, materials, and one special dinner out together with your group, etc.) You will be responsible for transportation to and from the retreat and any group activities outside the retreat.

    • Your group will submit brief, quarterly group progress reports outlining the activity and reflection of group members.

    • You and your group will submit written evaluations of the learning experience submitted at end of each year, and end of overall project. Each individual will submit a reflection and the group will submit a reflection.
  • Everyone’s experience will be different. You may expect the following:

    • A deeper understanding and appreciation of Sabbath
    • Life giving community among peer who value Sabbath together
    • Knowledge and skills which apply to your ministry
    • Professional friendships and support networks with colleagues in ministry
    • Practical assistance in addressing pastoral opportunities and challenges
    • Intentional reflection on your call to ministry
    • Creative approaches to ministry
    • Stimulating learning experiences
    • Opportunities for transformative service with peers
    1. Complete application for Individual and Peer Group project participation. Both applications must be submitted by July 9, 2023.
    2. Develop a structured, intentional Peer Group Learning Plan. This plan is created collaboratively with your peer group during the annual S3 Project Retreat, and refined in conversation with members of the S3 Project Team. Each Peer Group final plan must be approved by the S3 Committee prior to receiving grant funding.
    3. Implement the Learning Plan & complete project reports in a timely way.
    4. Meet together at least 5 times per year during the project. The annual retreat session may count as one meeting.
    5. Attend the annual S3 Project Retreat while your group is part of the project.
    6. Have your local congregation/context submit $150 each year to the S3 program from your Continuing Education budget or another source. They will submit $150 in August 2023 and $150 in August 2024.
    7. Maintain financial records of project expenditures funded by the S3 project - details at orientation.
    8. Complete written evaluation.
  • The annual S3 Project Retreat will be October 16-18, 2023 at Wesley Gardens Retreat Center

Groups selected to become new S3 groups will meet for an annual retreat. During the first of these retreats, groups will work on developing a Learning Project Plan. After the retreat, groups must complete part two of the application - the Project Plan Form. Only one Project Plan form is needed.

Click here for the Project Form

Questions? Contact Dr. Ted Goshorn, S3 Program Director