The curriculum for our 18-month Journey process seeks to balance training in spiritual formation (we call this “Journey Inward”) and leadership development (“Journey Outward”). Some representative threads that weave themselves throughout this training include:
Extended times of solitude, silence and listening prayer
On the first day of each of the six retreats, we prepare participants for a day of individual time alone with God. We believe that many Christian leaders live very busy and hurried lives. As a result, they often find less and less time in their schedules to simply be alone and still in God’s presence. We believe that leadership begins when we sit, like Mary in Luke 10:38-42, at the feet of Jesus as listeners. This is a critical “Journey Inward” component of our curriculum about which we are passionately intentional.
Teaching on the centrality of grace
Another thread woven throughout our training is our critical need to understand the grace of God as the reality not only of our entry into the Christian life, but also our ongoing walk with God in life and ministry. Many begin their Christian journeys with the understanding that they have been saved by grace, but then gradually come to try to live their lives as a performance to earn God’s favor or as an obligation demanded by a demanding God.
“What is the Christian Life?”
Though the question may sound simple and rather obvious, it is surprising how often those who have been Christians for some time find it challenging to give a clear and rich answer to this question. Is it a list of things I do or don’t do? Is it a set of activities I am involved in? Is it a straightedge to which I usually feel I don’t measure up? Or, is it an ongoing relationship of intimacy with Jesus Christ which I am nurturing and growing in?
“What is the Church”?
Again, this may seem an elementary question to ask, and yet we hear many answers. Is it the building or location in which a group of Christians meet? Is it a group of programs or meetings I attend? For Christian leaders, is it a job I carry out? Or, is it people, mutual members of the body of Christ, learning to love one another as they themselves have been loved by Christ?
Practical, spirituality-based leadership development training/tools
So often, the inner life of a Christian leader and his or her outer life are two separate and disconnected rooms. We may seek to nurture our friendship with God through prayer, Scripture reading and other spiritual disciplines, but these practices may or may not have as much impact in the way we plan ministry, lead people or serve the body of Christ. Many times, our leadership methods and values seem to reflect the culture around us rather than the kingdom of God.
Reaching the Next Generations
Throughout the flow of the six retreats, we visit and revisit the need for Christian leaders today to be aware of how to reach our increasingly postmodern generations with the love and truth of Christ. Like Paul in Athens seeking to communicate Christ using the common language of this intellectual center, how do we help postmodern peoples encounter the Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever?
Understanding the “pruning places” in our Christian journeys
Jesus, in John 15:2, reminds us that he prunes the fruitful branch so that it will bear even more fruit. But a branch that has pruned feels, for a time, that it is anything but fruitful. How can we come to understand the difficult places of our Christian lives as places that will result in God’s greater impact and influence in and through us?
Flexible enough to respond to the unique needs of each group
These are some key elements of this eighteen-month process. One of the distinctive dynamics of this experiential learning process is that we seek to be sensitive to the unique needs of each group of 15-20 who moves through it together. Often, we will redirect the process along the way if we sense that there are unique and common needs in a group needing training or attention.
Not just INFORMATION, but TRANSFORMATION
Also, the Journey is a “praxis model” of training in that the focus is not merely on the teaching/training content, but also on the “trying on” and the “living out” of these patterns in the lives of participants. This is not just a “sit and listen” process, but a “listen and try-it-on” process. Members of each Journey group often comment along the way that they have gained at least as much from one another as they have from the retreat curriculum and training.