The Transforming Center is a ministry that offers pastors and others in leadership roles an opportunity for spiritual renewal and a safe place to be honest about the challenges of spiritual leadership. We exist to strengthen the souls of pastors and Christian leaders and the congregations and organizations they serve.
Retreat by its very definition is an opportunity for pastors and leaders to get away, to be in God’s presence alone, to give God their full and undivided attention for an extended period of time.
Jesus indicates that it’s possible to gain the whole world and to lose your own soul. If Jesus were talking to us as Christian ministry leaders today he might even tell us that it’s possible to gain the whole world of ministry success and lose your own soul. A spiritual retreat is an opportunity for us to spend uninterrupted time in God’s presence allowing him to replenish our souls and help us reclaim our souls if we need to. On a retreat we give God full access to our souls so that he can strengthen us for the work he has called us to do.
The language of retreat has been compromised both in secular settings and also in Christian settings. Oftentimes when we go on retreat these days it’s a time that’s full of programming, networking, teaching and content. You might even have multiple people staying in a room together so that you don’t have any time alone and go home from retreat more exhausted than when you came!
In the realm of the spiritual life, a retreat is a time that’s set apart for God and God alone. On retreat we engage in a different way of being—with God, with ourselves, and with others—and a different rhythm of spiritual practices than what we are normally able to experience in our daily lives. When you attend a Transforming Center retreat, we will gather in the evening and get oriented a little bit and then share a meal together. Then there will be teaching and a guided meditation that helps us to settle into God’s invitation for us to be on retreat. Then we will have Night Prayer and enter into the Great Silence which enables us to be quiet and rest in God’s presence right off the bat.
The next morning we’ll start our day with Morning Prayer. We’ll have more teaching and input, and then, after lunch, there will be an extended time in solitude and silence with guidance provided. You will have four hours to be alone in God’s presence, to speak to God the way you need to speak to him, to do the things that you and God would enjoy doing together, to rest and to listen for God’s word to you. For many, this is the first time they have ever spent that much time in solitude and it is a highlight of the retreat. In the evening we will gather as a group for Evening Prayer, have dinner together, and then have an evening teaching session that also incorporates time for questions and conversation. Most people experience this day as a wonderful replenishing rhythm of teaching and silence, of prayer, of solitude, and community with other leaders. The next day we conclude with teaching, a bit more time in solitude and then a leaving service that gives you an opportunity to “gather up” what God has done in your heart over the last couple of days and plan for re-entry.
It is a fully-orbed experience that is meant to be deeply replenishing and to help you to strengthen the truest part of yourself—your soul.
The calling to be in Christian leadership is complex in ways that other professions are not because a Christian leaders's spiritual life is all mixed up with their vocational life, their work, their community and even their family life. Sometimes pastors lose track of their own spirituality as something that is very personal and not just public. Although success can be satisfying in many ways, pastors need to pull away from life in the public view at times and attend to their own relationship with God in privacy. On retreat, it’s not about preaching a sermon or leading or guiding anyone else or even networking with colleagues. It is an opportunity to allow ourselves to receive spiritual guidance and to give ourselves over to just being a soul in God’s presence.
If you think you’re too busy it’s probably time for you to go on retreat! If you are too busy to go on retreat, chances are you are consumed with your work and your ministry in a way that prevents you from being able to hear and respond to Jesus’ invitation to you to “Come away with me and rest awhile.”
In the midst of great busyness and much human need, Jesus said that to his own disciples in the New Testament. “Come away with me and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:30) If we hear that invitation from Jesus and we say to him, “No, I’m too busy,” then we are probably in desperate need of a retreat. We are in desperate need of finding ourselves in God’s presence again and seeing our ministry can flow out of the relationship that we’re cultivating with God himself.
“Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership comes out of ten years of teaching, leading retreats and doing spiritual direction with pastors and Christian ministry leaders, but actually it started before that. It started with my own journey as a leader and coming to a place in my own life where I began to realize that I was losing my own soul in ministry. I saw that it’s possible to be very successful, to look very successful, to have a lot of good things going on, and yet to be slipping away from your connection with God—the Person who actually called you into ministry in the first place." - Ruth Haley Barton
Those of us who are leader types take on leadership roles because we really want do to something good in the world. We really want to make a difference. But the truth is that sometimes the work becomes more important than the Person of God himself. It happens very subtly. We work around the clock. We burn the candle at both ends, and eventually we wake up one day and we realize how depleted we are. We realize that our own spiritual practices are missing. We don’t have a private place with God for ourselves because we’re giving out everything we know to other people, either in sermons or Bible study guides or whatever.
When that happens it’s very disturbing to notice that we have been serving God but have lost touch with the God we are serving and we are missing the intimacy that used to be there. What used to be a joyful, passionate pursuit has become something that is merely for public consumption.