TLC4: Spiritual Formation Ministry Implementation

Implementing Christian formation ministry is the project for the fourth and final TLC retreat. The reason we do this is because we learn best by doing, especially by venturing into a situation with anticipation that the hand of heaven will reach down to assist us. Soul Shepherding’s certificate training in “Spiritual Formation and Soul Care Ministry” is designed to help pastors, counselors, business professionals, and others become spiritual leaders.

Spiritual leaders stand out. Instead of trying to make things happen or get people to do things they follow the way of Jesus by submitting to God and relying on his power in the activities of daily life and ministry. But they are not passive! Energized by the Spirit of grace they look for opportunities to love people to Christ!

Turn On Your Zacchaeus Radar!

Jesus’ method of discipleship was unlike any of the rabbi’s of his day and most pastors and leaders today. Most of us wouldn’t invite ourselves over to someone’s house for dinner, nor would we say, “I’d like to mentor you.” We think the person in need of help should ask us. But if Jesus hadn’t called the wee little tax collector down from that Sycamore tree that he was hiding in he’d still be up there! Instead Zacchaeus became a great disciple of Christ.

That’s being a spiritual leader. We look at people with the loving eyes of God and search into their hearts to see who seems eager for more of God. Often the people with the greatest potential for Christ are hesitant to ask for help so instead of waiting for them we reach out and encourage them and say as the Apostle Paul liked to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor, 11:1).

Designing a Spiritual Formation Ministry Project

In your circle of influence who do you see who desires to grow closer to Christ the Lord? What can you do to help those people connect with God and grow in his grace? Pray about what God would have you to do with them and ask him to help you to be a Christly spiritual leader.

Here are a few examples of the kind of ministry initiatives you could implement:

  • Share something you learned in TLC. For instance, you could teach a Gospel lesson on “Apprenticeship to Jesus in God’s Kingdom.”
  • Lead a soul care group meeting in which you pray a Psalm of Lament and then practice implementing it by sharing openly and listening with empathy to each other.
  • Look for someone who is spiritually hungry and offer to meet for coffee. Draw this person out, offer compassion, and encourage their discipleship to Christ. If it goes well meet again.
  • Bring a friend or group with you on a community outreach ministry like feeding the homeless or cleaning up a neighbor’s house.

Whatever you choose to do, practice being a spiritual leader by praying before you meet with this person and while you’re together. Practice relying on the Spirit of Christ while you minister. If possible it’d be good to do a second meeting in which you improve your ministry approach based on what you learned the first time. Then write up a reflection paper about your experience.

Example: Leading Two Retreats

By Mildred Gerner ~ TLC Graduate ~ Ministry Leader at King of Kings Church in Omaha

For my ministry project, I chose to host two mini-retreats at Holy Family Shrine near Omaha.  The Shrine is located atop a rare rolling hill along I-80 and its high glass walls and wooden beams beckon loudly to passersby. There is biblical symbolism designed into every aspect of the grounds, visitors center and chapel, each bit chosen after prayer and spiritual confirmation for the vision.

The theme of the mini-retreats was “Advent Waiting.” One on Friday December 5th from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and the other on Saturday December 6th from  8:30 am to 11:30 am.  There were ten ladies on Friday and 11 on Saturday. I used the same format and material for both groups.

Format

We gathered in a meeting room with a wide pane window overlooking the grounds. I asked the ladies to share their first name and one intangible Christmas gift they’d like to receive this year, no explanation necessary.

After a brief opening litany and prayer I taught awhile about “Waiting”, the theme for the first week of Advent. Then I prepared them for solitude and silence and introduced a few resources from SoulShepherding.org:

The ladies were all given the one page Lectio Divina Guide and were asked to choose one of the Nativity characters from the Visio Divina that God seemed to be drawing them toward. They took these with them into a quiet place at the shrine where they could be with God in silence and solitude for one hour.

Afterward, we regrouped to answer the question:  Is there anything God did within you during the time of silence and reflection that you’d like to share with the group?

What I Learned From Leading the Two Retreats

On Friday, when I led the sharing, I put the question to the group without first offering my experience during the hour of silence. On Saturday, I felt the Spirit really nudge me to share first with a fair amount of vulnerability. I learned from this as I noticed those who shared after me were equally as vulnerable and offered parts of their stories that elicited tears and praises to God. There were tender tears on Friday as well, but it seemed to come from a deeper place on Saturday.

I was reminded that leadership means venturing on God to use my story and experiences to encourage others’ willingness to trust.

I also learned that as some women recall and retell of their losses associated with divorce and disease such as cancer, the threat and devastation of their broken-heartedness is sometimes shared as an extreme, “I lost everything!” because that’s how it feels to them. The idea of “waiting” is not lost on them.

For women who are (not uncommonly in the Midwest) “super-doers”, the realization of the connection between “waiting on God” to “relinquishing control” wrecks the order of their internal world. They need to know God loves them as human beings and they are His beloved ones.

Summary

I am pleased and grateful that the Lord gave me grace to desire and accomplish these retreats.  It gave some very busy and overwhelmed women an opportunitiy to “taste and see that the Lord is good” when they turn their attention to being with Him in silence to listen. Their feedback to me was encouraging!

I have in mind to continue leading these little getaways and expand the length of time, working toward staying overnight, eventually on successive nights for an increasingly richer experience of being with Christ and learning His ways.

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