Sabbatical Guidance and Spiritual Companioning
During my sabbatical in the summer of 2017, the coaching through Gracebridge helped me to unwind some unhelpful patterns that I had developed in my life and ministry. Disengagement provided the seedbed for growth and the Gracebridge team was invaluable to me in this process, as well as to my church leadership.
I have learned better rhythms for flourishing within ministry, including understanding of myself, meaningful practices of prayer and Scripture meditation, and re-developing life-giving relationships with others.
I recommend Gracebridge regularly for those seeking spiritual direction, ministers seeking breakthroughs of growth through spiritual journey-partners, and specifically for pastors seeking coaching through a ministry sabbatical.
Matt Erickson / Senior Pastor at Eastbrook Church, Milwaukee, WI
My growing conviction as a person in ministry is that I will be a far more effective minister when I am growing. In light of that, one problem I believe I am avoiding, is that of grinding forward in the effort to care for others while neglecting my own spiritual health.
Ministry too often exacts a toll on professional ministers that Jesus does NOT ask for. Gracebridge provides resources that offer perspectives and create patterns that can help keep you in ministry until Jesus says your work is finished, rather than when you simply run out of spiritual gas or physical strength. As an Evangelical, I am also helped and challenged by the practice of spiritual formation - a far cry from the purely cerebral discipleship I’ve been accustomed to in my circles. Learning to abide in Jesus, rather than merely working for him, has been a refreshment for my soul. I recommend it.
Luke Olson / Area Director / InterVarsityChristian Fellowship/USA
I was having a hard time reading my own thoughts and feelings. My own inner workings felt like a mystery to me. It felt like a roller coaster of small and large decisions. And when the roller coaster stopped at times, I would kind of collapse, zone out, disengage from life.
Gracebridge gave space for my soul to breathe, to engage my inner workings from a new angle, enabling me to gain leverage and a place to stand, and to observe myself through redemptive eyes.
When Mark took me through a recent vocational crisis and showed how my temperament is prone to respond to those types of stresses. Rather than feeling and acting freely, I react as if trapped, and can take on tasks and roles I’m not necessarily meant to.
Now I can look at both my inner life and my decisions with fresh eyes, knowing that it’s not always an either/or situation, but quite often a both/and. And that I can offer the best of who I am in any setting, not just ones that feel like a perfect fit. But also, that I get to choose where and how I serve, within an attitude of surrender and letting go.
Jeremy Bryan / City Coordinator / 24-7 Prayer USA
Spiritual Companioning, Group Co-hort, Retreat
Gracebridge Alliance came into my life at a pivotal time while working in ministry. I thought only pastors could benefit from spiritual direction and counseling, since I was in a support role in my local church, but my pastor (and boss) encouraged me to consider reaching out to them. I met with Maria as she graciously walked me through spiritual practices and habits to help me grow as a believer of Jesus. She became a mentor and advocate to me as she carefully listened and imparted godly wisdom in helping me stay steady and strong for the work of the Kingdom. Whether you are seeking spiritual support for yourself or helping to financially support the ministry of Gracebridge Alliance, you won’t be disappointed! It’s a win-win for all!
Lisa Lusak, epikos Church Administrative Assistant
Group Co-hort, Retreat
When I entered a full-time job in ministry, I don't think I was prepared with how all-encompassing it can be. Ministry includes your faith, work, friends, serving, neighbors, oftentimes your family -- all part of the same environment. And despite being with people, I often felt very isolated. My identity and value was much more tied up in the serving and doing, than my identity in Christ.
I was frustrated because it felt like ministry was an idol at times, and that the soul health of leaders and pastors is less of a priority than "serving Jesus and reaching people". I think the church talks about pride and soul care, and the source of our value, but especially in the West, we focus so much on achievement and productivity.
I was living in this identify paradox where I didn't value myself (nor others) enough to set boundaries, limits, days of rest etc. While at the same time overvaluing myself and running on pride thinking that I'm more important than I am. Though this was still likely rooted in the deep emptiness and insecurity that comes from not prioritizing time of rest with God to just be.
I've seen various counselors and spiritual advisors, and some have been wonderful, while others have left me in a potentially worse place. Gracebridge was the first place however, where I knew that didn't want anything from me, or I wasn't there to achieve some new level of spiritual greatness or awakening. All of that is a byproduct, but the only goal was for me to be fully healthy and accepting of who I am uniquely. They also incorporate soul, mind, emotions and body. The latter are too often left out.
Despite being in an exceptionally busy season, I began to consider this and spend time with God leaning in to things that bring me joy, wonder, fullness, while also focusing less on the "doing" (though that's still a struggle). My love for Jesus and others is much more vibrant and real when it comes from who I authentically am.
Anonymous / Church Director
Discernment Process and Spiritual Companioning
Prior to coming to Gracebridge Alliance, I was coming out of a hard season of church-planting ministry that involved a great deal of conflict and disappointment, leaving me in a transitional stage of life, and wondering about my future in ministry (all the while feeling many of the effects of ministry burnout). It was evident that, in the midst of all of this, I had neglected a cultivated spiritual life and was, in many ways, attempting to lead and serve out of my own limited and diminishing capacities.
One of the great challenges for church leaders is that one’s ministry is also one’s community. When disruption happens in one, it necessarily affects the other. My decision to step away from ministry leadership meant a loss of community, and I felt incredibly isolated and lonely. And in the midst of the isolation, I was trying to make sense of the disappointments and failures of ministry, and so I carried with me a great deal of uncertainty and doubt about my competencies as a pastor and leader.
When I think of Gracebridge Alliance, I think of Psalm 23. The “work” done in every meeting felt like an encounter with the Divine Shepherd, who “makes us lie down in green pastures” and “leads us beside still waters”—always with the goal of the restoration of the soul (not just for the sake of being “at peace”). Gracebridge Alliance provided the space and time that was much needed to tend to my interior life. They called me into and guided me through a process of discernment of all that had happened in my life and ministry in light of the abundance of God’s presence and grace. Every meeting has been an invitation to rest and reflect--to consider my life and work--always with an awareness of God’s goodness and mercy on my right and on my left.
It didn’t take long to realize that my time in spiritual direction with Gracebridge Alliance would become an invaluable and immovable part of my ministry life. There is always more to explore and more to learn both about God’s presence and my own interior life, and this work of exploration and discovery is absolutely vital to my vocation as a pastor and leader. It is the ground on which growth and transformation can be cultivated.
The challenges of ministry haven’t changed, but I am learning how to be present to them in a different and differentiated way, marked by a more restful posture and attunement to the presence of God and to my own needs. Thus, I am able to be more present and attentive in my leadership and shepherding. In the ways I have tried to lead out of my own limited and diminishing capacities in the past, I am slowly working towards a life of ministry and leadership that is sourced in the Divine Life of God. Gracebridge Alliance’s role in that journey has been critical, and for that I am grateful.
Rev Ryan Boettcher / Associate Pastor and Deacon / Resurrection Anglican Church / South Austin, TX