Isolation is the common cold of parish ministry, says Pastor Norm Thomasma. A characteristic symptom is feeling relational congestion with an overall sense of loneliness. Most pastors experience it now and then. Some, however, may be more susceptible than others. A draining workload, geographical separation from other like-minded churches, or personal struggles can increase a pastor’s isolation.
Retreating with other pastors is a positive way to prevent isolation. Sharing ministry experiences and wise practices develops camaraderie. Listening together and telling stories grows koinonia. Spending time with others who “get it” gives pastors hope. And when we worship together and break bread, the Spirit of God comes gently among us.
Retreating and recreating with other pastors has other benefits too. Tensions are relieved by playing and laughing together. Perspective is regained and priorities realigned through personal and communal reflection. Bodies are restored as we rest from our labors. Our souls grow in virtue as we practice rhythms of grace.
This section connects you to three CRC ministries. One provides retreats, and the other two may be able to assist in planning retreats for your region.
Deeper Journey is a CRC ministry providing retreats designed to restore one’s soul. It encourages participants to deepen their intimacy with Father, Son and Holy Spirit by exploring ancient Christian practices. The ministry is intentionally shaped by 5 values: sacred space, contemplative worship, silence and solitude, practical teaching and safe community.
Those who participate in Deeper Journey attend eight retreats over a two-year period. At each retreat, they engage in large and small group sessions as well as spend time alone with God. For many pastors, a highlight of the retreats is the communal worship experience.
Deeper Journey is open to pastors, church leaders and all others who long for a more intimate relationship with God. It’s currently located in Michigan and Illinois. For more information, see the website deeperjourney.org. You can also contact the Central USA (815) 690-2408 or Great Lakes (616) 224-0753 regional office. Grants may be available for Deeper Journey through Pastor Church Resources.
Stories from Deeper Journey
“Recognizing I was burning the candle at both ends and close to burning out,” reminisces Doug Kamstra, “I asked a friend for counsel. He said, ‘Read Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton.’ So I did.” But reading the book didn’t really do anything for Doug. It wasn’t until he committed to doing the exercises that changes began to happen. Read the rest of the story.
Despite their best intentions, pastors don’t always practice what they preach when it comes to spending meaningful time in Scripture reading, prayer, and solitude. “Like the rest of humanity, we get caught up in busy schedules and pressing commitments,” says Paul DeVries. To remedy this DeVries joined 24 others for the Deeper Journey retreats. Read more.
In "Learning to Be Still", one pastor gave testimony to transformation in his life. So much so that an elder recently told him, “Something is different about you.” Through the understanding and spiritual disciplines he developed through Deeper Journey he now has a deeper relationship and dependency on God. See the Banner article.