Church leaders are leaving, often for good reasons.
We all need a space to honestly wrestle with the question, “Why should I stay in this ministry?” The Why Stay 2023 Retreat this past week in Malibu, California gave 14 souls – 8 participants, 2 alumni, and 4 Missio Alliance staff – a safe space to examine the joys and difficulties we have all encountered throughout our ministry journeys, discovering new energy for our next season, our next call, our our next move.
We (Missio Alliance) hosted an intentionally small gathering because we know the value in creating a safe environment where questions can be heard, stories can be shared, and opportunities to connect with retreat facilitators is deeply meaningful.
In the stunningly beautiful retreat setting that is the Serra Retreat high up the Malibu Canyon, Why Stay participants heard from seasoned church leaders just like themselves who have struggled through their own vocational transitions. We enjoyed extended time resting with God in a peaceful, hilltop setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean. And we carefully explored potential opportunities before us through thoughtful listening sessions.
Why Stay is not a conference, nor your average retreat. Why not?
For this reason: We are in a season that demands more attention to our own soul care, through cultivating an intentional rhythm of rest and renewal, over multiple days, with a small cohort of fellow pilgrims. This is needed perhaps more than ever before in our lives, and certainly in our leadership. And so, we have carved out multiple days to consider the transformational cycle of disruption, awareness, awakening, integration, and incarnation in the life of a maturing Christian leader.
Prayerfully look over our shoulders as we give you a taste of the deep goodness we experienced together this past week.
~ Missio Alliance
The Serra Retreat Center in Malibu, California, hidden up the Malibu Canyon, is stunningly beautiful.
Why Stay 2023 Retreat Recap | Oct. 16 – 20th, ’23
Four core highlights from our team were as follows:
- The power of retreat in beautiful spaces: Ronald Heifetz, a well-known author on leadership, has a concept in his work called “getting on the balcony.” The idea is that the swirl of constant motion around us leads to unexamined internal motivations. As leaders, we far too-often react instead of respond. What we as a Missio Alliance team found critical about this Why Stay Retreat was walking alongside a group of Christian leaders from diverse backgrounds, all struggling with a wide variety of pressing issues, who had made a collective decision to step outside of the noise and listen to God and their souls. This practice is amongst the most valuable and sustaining healthy things a leader can do for longevity.
- The common disorientation Christian leaders have experienced in the last few years: In a group of 14, with wide variety of leadership responsibilities, geographic and social locations within America, denominational difference, distinction in age, ability, gender, and ethnicity, an immediate commonality was present from the jump: The last few years have been deeply disorienting for Christian leaders. This shared experience bonded us together immediately, and created a safe space for vulnerability and a courageous gaze inward. Christian leaders need third spaces like Why Stay to help them process what they encounter daily within their work and ministry.
- In-person formation will always remain central to a leader’s development: There is simply no substitute for time together in deep dialogue, shared laughter, reflective practices, and common learning within a developmental context. As amazing and accessible as virtual, asynchronous learning can be, focused time together in-person will always prove paramount. Shared space next to one another over multiple days provided the crucible for the Spirit’s transformative work this week.
- Holding space for leaders to ask questions they’d never been given permission to ask is both deeply transformative and invaluable for the sustained health of the Church in this day.
Why Stay Testimonials
All responses below are directly from Why Stay participants themselves.
- What was the most helpful or impactful part of the retreat for you?
- “Everything. Literally, the setup of how things would be while we were here, the content shared/presented, the space given to interact with what was shared, the sharing with one another, and the amount of time for the entire stay.”
- “The prompts and questions given, with a perfect amount of context/teaching given, for us to take time to prayerfully consider personally and share about in small group settings.”
- “The teachings – the arc of the different themes throughout the week was so powerful, and the leaders used helpful formats of visual images, personal stories, and time for reflection.”
- “It was exactly the space that I needed in my particular season. It was so helpful to have the space to reflect, journal and process alone and in groups. The large periods of free time and questions in session were huge.”
- “Hard to pinpoint most helpful, as everything (sincerely) came together so beautifully! It had great balance of presenters, rest & reflection and learning with fellow participants. It was nice to change processing pods to spend time with most or all participants. It was also nice to have longer free times, but great to have options for peeps to spend time together if we wanted to.”
- “The variety of activities.”
- “Intentional time to acknowledge & process grief can be an easy part to skip over, not talk about, or under emphasize. Permission to be flexible (stated consistently).”
- How has this retreat impacted you? How has it impacted your place in God’s mission?
- “It has confirmed what God was leading & guiding me into in this season. I believe I feel better equipped & motivated to go into what God’s mission is for me in this next season.”
- “It’s brought healing, awareness, and affirmation. It has validated my humanity while honoring divinity. I have more tools for sustained ministry & discipleship.”
- “It has affirmed my sense of identity as a saint, and encouraged my place in God’s mission either through or apart from my current job.”
- “It has given me the space to reconnect with myself and God in ways I have needed and process what has been a tumultuous season.”
- “It was the perfect set up to ponder before going into my Sabbatical. Sooo glad I came…I wasn’t quite sure with the title of the retreat (perhaps more clarity would be great to attract others?), but I’m so grateful & feel so blessed with how it turned out.”
- “This was an opportunity for a much needed rest. I think the section on incarnation was affirming to me to just be. Just ‘be-ing’ is how we can join in God’s mission.”
- “I was given the gifts of space and guidance, and I really needed both. God used the preparation and intentionality of the Missio team to move in my life in this season. I am leaving with more hope, determination, and trust.”
- Testimonial that might help others who are considering this retreat experience
- “If you are stuck or feel numb in ministry you should sign up for this experience. You will, if you show up fully to this, experience God’s presence & I believe from my experience, discernment on what needs to happen. Pure invitation from God. Sign up now.”
- “Missio Alliance has thoughtfully created a rich and unique opportunity that provides both the rest and challenge needed to leave feeling refreshed and re-oriented for ministry.”
- “Why Stay didn’t answer the question for me about whether to stay in or leave my current ministry context, but it did give me spiritual and emotional resources that will serve me no matter where I go.”
- “Why Stay Retreat is a sacred space that allowed me to rest, grieve, and re-imagine parts of my soul that needed attending to. For anyone who’s looking for a space to be and be loved by God and others, welcome.”
- “Outstanding time – Highly recommend it! It was great input to get your thinking juices going and heart matters, interactions with others…a perfect balance.”
- “Why Stay gave me the space and guidance I didn’t realize I needed in this season. Whether or not you are discerning a move or a change, Why Stay will encourage you to dig in at your own pace, and you will leave encouraged.”