By: Christa Meland
Are you looking for an opportunity to be encouraged, inspired, and given time and resources to grow as a leader and a person? Are you yearning for space and freedom to dream new dreams? Would you benefit from a community where you can be seen and known?
Active clergy are invited to be part of the next group of Soul Leaders—a year-long, five-retreat series that provides an opportunity to reconnect with their passion and purpose; explore issues related to heart, courage, and call; and help their congregations embrace God-sized dreams. There is a taste-and-see event for interested clergy on Aug. 14, and the first retreat begins in January. (Learn more.)
“I found Soul Leaders to be a journey I never expected!” said Soul Leaders alumna, Rev. Laurie Boche. “I began the journey with low expectations and ended it with new clergy friends, a new awareness of my faith and ministry, and a renewal of the passion I have for my God-given talents and ministry.”
Participants are part of a cohort of 12 to 15 colleagues and are gently, yet thoughtfully, led by two excellent facilitators who have been trained by the Center for Courage and Renewal. The retreats (all at Koinonia Retreat Center in South Haven) use a “circle of trust” approach developed by author and educator Parker Palmer. Using poetry, readings, and other content introduced by the facilitators, participants lean in to listening to their own voice and discerning the movement of the Spirit to gain clarity about how and where God is calling them to lead and which God-sized dream they are being called to pursue in their ministry setting.
“Like so many retreats and continuing education events, Soul Leaders gave me many tools and resources for my life in ministry,” said Soul Leaders alumna, Rev. Brenda North. “Unlike any other event or continuing education, Soul Leaders gave me the gift of myself. I am obsessed with learning about the best way to minister in our ever-changing world and am constantly applying what I'm learning from books and podcasts and continuing education events. In contrast, Soul Leaders reminded me to find my own path and trust my own instincts.”
Rev. Becky Sechrist, another Soul Leaders alumna, said Soul Leaders was a welcome respite in the midst of normal work life.
“I rarely set time aside (and stick to it) for soulful reflection, and it was wonderful to have this set time away to do exactly that,” she said. “Our work as clergy draws heavily upon us at times, and taking time to re-fill my own reserves makes me a better pastor…I often get caught up in all the trees that surround me in the forest. Soul Leaders helped me to take a step back to look at the whole forest as well as take a step in and inspect the particularity of the rings of a single tree. The stepping in and stepping out were helpful tools in maintaining perspective and flexibility in my daily life.”
All five Soul Leaders retreats include time for journaling, listening to one another, building community, and silence—and each retreat builds on the previous one. The retreats begin with dinner on Monday evening and conclude with lunch on Wednesday. The cost (which includes lodging and facilitation) is $1,800, and it can be paid over two years.
Soul Leaders alumnus, Rev. Randy Koppen describes the retreats as “a concert of self-reflection, small group, and smaller group interactions led by two people who have great insight and lead without pushing a particular agenda,” adding that he didn’t know most people in his cohort group, but they are now trusted friends in a shared ministry.
Sechrist echoed that sentiment: “I loved taking this journey with other clergy—I was warmed, inspired, and brought to tears by their stories. I found good ideas, and I gained insight into my colleagues. In fact, colleagues became valued friends over the course of the retreats.”
Koppen pointed out that nearly every small group has covenants—showing up, participating fully, keeping discussions confidential, etc. But Soul Leaders had some he’d never experienced.
“The time I spent together with our group turned my thought processes by giving me windows to situations, ideas, and relationships,” he said. “These windows gave me new perspectives I don’t believe I could have discovered on my own. Given the way we do ministry has made some huge shifts, Soul Leaders gave me ways to navigate without prescriptions. Trusting God will make a way and the resources we have we have in abundance is a gift Soul Leaders shared with me.”
His advice to those thinking and praying about Soul Leaders: “If God is tapping on your shoulder, go—listen.”
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church