2 March, 2024

Soul Care Covenant Groups Explained

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by | 1 January, 2024 | 0 comments

THIS IS A SIDEBAR TO CHAD GOUCHER’S ARTICLE, “THE BEST INVESTMENT I’VE EVER MADE.”

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By Alan Ahlgrim 

What is Soul Care?  

The model we follow at Covenant Connections for Pastors is typically 4-3-2-1: four leaders (and one experienced facilitator), meeting over three years, twice a year in retreat, and once a month by Zoom or phone calls.  

This model allows honest, transparent, and even vulnerable sharing as relationships deepen through the consistent devotion of a disciplined community. The group is not out to “fix others” or even to hold others accountable; rather, the commitment to “be close” establishes an atmosphere where these things consistently occur. 

When/how did you start it? 

I began formalizing the soul care model a decade ago in concert with the psychologists at Blessing Ranch Ministries.  

What was the inspiration for this soul care model? 

Every leader is either coming out of a season of special challenge, in the middle of a season of special challenge, or heading into a season of special challenge! In a post-Christian culture, with people facing complexities and moral ambiguities never seen in our lifetime, leadership is more challenging than ever. Soul care covenant groups ensure Christian leaders aren’t facing those challenges alone. 

What is your philosophy for soul care groups? 

A covenant group is a relational agreement based upon trust. No leader will ever be stronger or more secure than with the small circle of other leaders who surround and support him. We were made for life-enriching relationships. Community is at the heart of true Christianity, and true community can’t be rushed, it only moves at the speed of trust. 

Participants stay in their group for three years. Transformation is not an event; it’s a journey. It only happens on purpose, over time, and in community.  

Soul work is both slow work and shared work. No one can speed their way into a soul-satisfying relationship with God, nor can anyone speed their way into a soul-enriching relationship with others. 

Soul care covenant groups are designed to provide a safe and confidential setting for leaders to candidly process the hard hits and the heart hits that inevitably come their way.  

A covenant group is a healthy community in which each member seeks something for the others; group members are committed to helping one another serve well and finish well. Sadly, spiritual leaders usually talk about community the most but typically experience it the least. 

Anglican theologian W.H. Vanstone once observed that the church is like a swimming pool in which all the noise comes from the shallow end. But most of the wisdom is found in the deep end, among those who have taken the time and cultivated the habits and disciplines to learn to swim in deeper waters. If we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then we need the kind of sustained learning that leads us into the deep end of the pool. 

What’s your vision, purpose, and goals for these groups? 

We want them to gather for in-person retreats twice each year. Seeing each other face-to-face is one of the keys to deepening relationships. Being in the same room with each other allows for even greater opportunities to be open, vulnerable, and authentic.  

How many groups do you now have? 

At least 15 covenant groups have completed the cycle with at least 18 more now “in motion” for a total of 33 groups. 

Over 100 leaders are being saturated in the “soul strength” model. 

In general, who are in these groups?  

Most folks in the groups have been serving in the role of lead pastor; however, we have also launched one group for women, and more women’s groups will be launching soon. 

Where do you envision these groups being in three to five years? 

Since groups are now multiplying rapidly as more are saturated in the language and concept of the soul strength concept, we see potential for doubling the number of groups every three years through a growing number of healthy facilitators. 

What are you planning and praying for? 

We are now launching a soul care coaching opportunity for those seeking to move to the next level. We define “next level” as both deeper and beyond, with a customized approach for every individual. 

Alan Ahlgrim is author of Soul Strength: Rhythms for Thriving. He served as the founding pastor of Rocky Mountain Christian Church for 29 years and now serves as chief soul care officer of Covenant Connections for Pastors.   

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