Fortress Press

Pastoral Imagination: Bringing the Practice of Ministry to Life

Pastoral Imagination

Bringing the Practice of Ministry to Life

Eileen R. Campbell-Reed (Author), Christian Scharen (Foreword by)


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In Pastoral Imagination: Bringing the Practice of Ministry to Life, Eileen R. Campbell-Reed informs and inspires the practice of ministry through slices of "on the ground" learning experienced by seminarians, pastors, activists, and chaplains and gathered from qualitative studies of ministry. Each of the fifty chapters explores a single concept through story, reflection, and provocative open-ended questions designed to spark conversation between ministers and mentors, among ministry peers, or for personal journal reflections. The book provides a framework for understanding ministry as an embodied, relational, integrative, and spiritual practice.

Pastoral Imagination is closely integrated with the author's Three Minute Ministry Mentor web resource, which introduces the topics in the book through brief video presentations. The book serves as a coaching guide and a ministry mentor in its own right by expanding on these topics through the author's reflections, observations, and questions. Addressing the importance of the practice of ministry, Campbell-Reed states: "Ministry itself, like most professions and complex practices, is dogged and driven by a rush to achieve. Yet to focus on achievement can be disastrous, especially if we skip over the steps for learning. To learn the practice of ministry--a multifaceted professional and spiritual practice--takes time and preparation, risk and responsibility, support and feedback."

The book can be used by individuals for personal growth; with groups in new-pastor retreats, CPE training programs, ministry peer groups, or supervision settings such as internship or field education; for devotional inspiration at staff meetings; and in seminary classrooms that prioritize teaching ministry as a practice.

The Pastoral Imagination Journal is a companion to Campbell-Reed’s book Pastoral Imagination. The 8″ x 10″ journal is full color, 108 pages, and it includes questions for reflection from all 50 chapters of the book. Blank pages allow space to write reflections. The journal is available exclusively at the author's web site.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506470061
  • eBook ISBN 9781506470085
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 264
  • Publication Date May 11, 2021


"Campbell-Reed's book is ideal for giving both professors and students a vision, rich stories, and deep questions to accompany them as they learn in practice how to speak love, enact hope, and demand justice in our broken and beautiful world."

Serene Jones, president at Union Theological Seminary

"Encyclopedic in scope and pulsing with heart in every word. Pastoral Imagination is a compendium of wisdom and a companion for ministry. Pastors will turn to it again and again."

George A. Mason, senior pastor, Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, and author of Preparing the Pastors We Need: Reclaiming the Congregation's Role in Training Clergy

"Eileen Campbell-Reed has given us all a generous invitation to ponder anew what makes for faithful leadership today. Through story and scholarship . . . you will find here a treasure trove of insight, learning, and wisdom . . . that nurtures a lifetime of ministry."

Eric D. Barreto, Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament, Princeton Theological Seminary and editor of Reading Theologically

"Evocative, discerning, and insightful--this book gives . . . a travel itinerary for how ministers become engaging leaders of communities of faith today."

Kathleen A. Cahalan, professor, practical theology, Saint John's University School of Theology and Seminary and project director, Collegeville Institute Seminars

"Pastoral Imagination is a book of wisdom. Campbell-Reed expertly mentors the reader in the habits, disposition, and reflective ways of being that catalyze growth."

Matthew Floding, Director of Ministerial Formation at Duke Divinity School, co-editor of Reflective Practice: Formation and Supervision in Ministry

"Gaining wisdom in the pastorate typically takes decades of trial and error and lots of support and advice from colleagues. In Pastoral Imagination, Campbell-Reed does us a great service by distilling decades of developed intuition into 'ministry minutes,' giving us the mentor that we need."

Carol Howard Merritt, pastor, Bedford Presbyterian Church, author of Healing Spiritual Wounds

Table of Contents

Foreword by Christian Scharen
50 Ministry Topics
 1   Ministry as a Practice
 2   Seeing Holy Depths
 3   Self-Reflection
 4   Collaboration
 5   Being There
 6   Supporting Peers
 7   Ministry as Embodied
 8   Equity in Ministry
 9   Ministry as Relational
10  Falling Creatively
11  Listening
12  Mentoring for Skill
13  Stakes for Ministry
14  Contemplative Prayer
15  Emotional Intelligence
16  Engaging Ritual
17  Aha Moments
18  Preaching Jesus
19  Brick Walls
20  Identity and Place
21  Practicing Resurrection
22  Transforming Injustice
23  Sabbath
24  Vocational Discernment
25  Examen
26  Future Stories
27  Preaching and Prayer
28  Thinking Theologically
29  Apprenticeship
30  Learning Goals: Harnessing Frustration
31  Learning Goals: Redirecting Fear
32  Learning Goals: Seeking Accountability
33  Cultivating Questions
34  Action-Reflection for Beginnings
35  Overcoming Isolation
36  Improvisation
37  Salience
38  Action-Reflection for Preaching
39  Pulled Up Short
40  Change Over Time
41  Two Vocations
42  Blueprint Stories
43  Facing Fears
44  Defining Moments
45  Navigating Conflict
46  Knowledge Use
47  Congruence
48  Holy Fierceness
49  Boundaries
50  Embracing Joy