SCL – The Fine Print

Our School of Contemplative Living (SCL) Guiding Principles:

Our training flows from a Trinitarian and Christocentric foundation. We believe in the triune God, confessing God as Creator of all, Jesus as God revealed in the flesh, and the Holy Spirit as the gift of God who empowers us to enter into God’s redemptive work in the world. We guide people to embrace the contemplative life, encouraging you to honor Sabbath and observe life-giving rhythms, drawing you toward healthy, embodied spiritual practices, nurturing self-awareness and vocational clarity, and ultimately, launch Kingdom enterprises.

  • we thrive spiritually when we live more in step with desire rather than duty
  • concrete, rhythmic spiritual practices are essential to spiritual growth
  • spiritual practices help us uncover our deeper desires
  • spiritual maturation is holistic, so attention is given to the mind, heart, and body
  • spiritual growth is slow and life-long, so time together breathes and feels unrushed
  • growth in self-awareness deepens our experience of God’s love
  • community catalyzes, accelerates and deepens the impact of spiritual growth
  • the inner, contemplative journey prepares us for mission

Our SCL Guiding Values:

  • we pay attention to desire over duty
  • we go slow, providing space, room to breathe, time to consider and reflect
  • we do our principle work together, not in isolation
  • we create an atmosphere of safety, trust, and vulnerability
  • we inculcate practices to shape habits of mind, heart, and body
  • our leaders model what is taught and encouraged
  • we enjoy the table, seeing food and fellowship as central to life

Our SCL Module Overview:

Required Reading prior to Weekend #1:The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self Discoveryby David G. Benner. Suggested Reading prior to Weekend #1:Invitation to Retreat: The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with Godby Ruth Haley Barton.

Weekend #1:  SOUL REST: getting in touch with our desires through Jesus’ invitation to rest. Focus: Retreat/Discovery of Desire. Key Practice: Sabbath

We begin our retreats by examining desire. What does it look like to get in touch with our deepest desires? Making headway on this front requires, first, that we recognize the crazy pace at which we live and the damage it has done to our souls. So, in this module, we make a case for retreats and lay a foundation for their importance, for pulling back regularly to rest and reflect. We also explain what we mean by spiritual formation and how retreats aid the work of formation.

Weekend #2: SOUL ROOM:creating space for God to change you from the inside out. Focus: Silence and Solitude. Key Practices: Silent Reflection & Prayer, Periods of Solitude

This module provides ample space for silence and solitude. We build a conversation about cultural distractions (e.g., media) and our own fears about being alone with ourselves and in the presence of God. We notice what holds us back from being with ourselves and God as openly and as honestly as possible, which provides a superb entry point for unpacking the concepts of desolation/consolation and true self/false self.

Weekend #3: SOUL AWARENESS: knowing yourself better helps you know God better. Focus: Self-Awareness. Key Practice: Self-Examination via Enneagram

We agree with John Calvin when he said, “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.” The goal of gaining greater self-awareness is the driver for this Module 3. In using the Enneagram as a spiritual tool, participants discover their inner wiring and drives, their habits, fixations and motivations, their best selves and the selves propped up by ego.

Weekend #4: SOUL FEEDING: learning to engage the scriptures for transformation. Focus: Being Nourished through Scripture. Key Practice: Lectio Divina w/ various accents

In this retreat we learn a new way of engaging God through scripture, making a case for the power of imagination and the power of slowing down. We steer people away from being masters and commanders of the text to being humble and compliant recipients of the love and life God wants to deposit in us through scripture. As Mulholland put it, we open up people to the idea of scripture being more an avenue for transformation than a text for information. We learn to free ourselves from keeping up with our reading plans and realize that God can speak through very little when we frame our time correctly and provide space and opportunity for God to speak.

Weekend #5: SOUL CONNECT: connecting to God through your body and prayer. Focus: The Body. Key Practices: Centering Prayer/Prayer Walking

Psalm 19 says, “Day after day the heavens continue to speak; night after night they make [God] known.” And so, it is with our bodies. Day and night our bodies speak to us, providing us with valuable information about ourselves and God. But it’s a language we’ve not learned well because of our inattention. The shift from I have a bodyto I am a bodyis subtle but huge. In this retreat, we delve into bodywork/body attention, giving participants time and ways to connect. We move toward prayer as an embodied experience. We also use art, icons, the Eucharist and other physical objects as avenues for conversing with God.

Weekend #6: SOUL HEALING: allowing God to touch you and heal you. Focus: Inner Healing. Key Practices: Attachment Inventory/Steps Toward Healing

We all are in need of healing, especially when it comes to our own image of God. It’s almost inevitable that through the Enneagram and other work done over previous retreats, students have uncovered unattended and suppressed wounds, some that they’ve tried to push down, like a ball in water. Here we begin to see the gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit, who surfaces implicit memories that drive our reactions to life. As we open ourselves up to the Spirit’s work, we realize that dealing openly and honestly with our pain is the only option to find new levels of freedom with God and others.

Weekend #7: SOUL DISCERNMENT: making decisions in community. Focus: Discernment. Key Practices: Clearness Committee/Group Spiritual Direction

Part of what we discover through this journey is how rarely we have called upon real discernment when making major decisions in our life. Sadly without being aware of false self-patterns and being able to quiet our souls, we make decisions quickly, yet we discern infrequently. This module will introduce you to ancient tools of wise discernment, practical skills we can all use more of in these very confusing times in which we live.

Weekend #8: SOUL MAKING: rearranging your life for transformation, mission, and community. Focus: Contemplative Activism. Key Practice: Developing a Rule of Life

How might I become a Christ-centered contemplative activist? How do I rearrange my life for transformation and Kingdom building? How do I build a rule of life? In this final module, we look a bit closer on how Jesus of Nazareth spent His time, energy, and resources, becoming One who lived fully for the glory of God. Our goal is to send you home with a clearer picture of who you are in Christ, and a specific rule of life that will aid you in your on-going journey with the Master.

Your SCL Commitments:

Commit to the Entire Journey: A SCL experience is a progressive journey in transforming your soul and engaging in a closer relationship with God. Because of this, we ask for you to commit to the entire cohort experience both in time and in the whole cost to receive its full benefit. We understand there may be a retreat you must miss, but regardless of missing, the cost for the cohort is all one fee.

Practice the Practice:  Each quarter has a focus and practice, and it’s extremely important engage God through that practice at least weekly if not daily over the weeks following each retreat. Our habits grow desire and shape what kind of lovers we become. Engaging in the practice for the quarter is where the beautiful work of God begins.

Read the Books: If you’re not a reader by nature, that’s okay. There will be only one book we will ask you to read prior to attending module one, and after that, there will be only one book per module assigned for outside reading. After each module, you will be encouraged to go home and slowly read that one book we’ve discussed. Your readings are designed to deepen both your understanding and application of the material we covered during our retreat, plus you can spend the next two months praying/processing/pondering and living out the truths found in the book!

Write a 1-Page Reflection: This simple reflection, turned in just prior to each weekend session, captures your spiritual experience since the last time together. It’s a great opportunity to notice and name God’s work in you.

Meet with a Spiritual Companion:  If you want to meet with a trained spiritual director on a monthly basis (usually for $50-60), we can connect you, but it’s also fine just to meet with a spiritual companion with whom you can share, over a cup of coffee, your life in God and the joys and challenges of the module focus. (Perhaps that’s someone within the group.)

Who Should Attend SCL?

SCLis for you if you’re new to contemplative practices and want to:

  • Deepen your experience of God’s love
  • Discover new ways of praying
  • Explore enlivening ways of reading Scripture
  • Grow in your appreciation for silence and solitude
  • Understand yourself better; know what makes you tick
  • Establish better rhythms of rest, recreation and Sabbath
  • Find healing in areas that have long felt broken
  • Examine desire and longings you’ve held
  • Learn how to make better life choices
  • Acquire a sense of mission and purpose


Our SCL History:

What was once a small equipping ministry in Cincinnati designed for raising up a handful of church leaders in spiritual direction, Sustainable Faith has now become a multi-dimensional, cross-denominational ministry that rewards its two-year graduates with a certificate reflecting that the student has met the demanding requirements of most spiritual direction professional networks worldwide. One recent report has deemed Sustainable Faith as “the largest spiritual direction training group in North America!”

timreist-2 Tim Reist, founder & trainer of Soul Space

In 2011, Tim Reist was invited to go through The Transforming Center, a two-year spiritual formation journey in Chicago, led by Ruth Haley Barton. This invitation came at a time of burnout and transition for Tim, after twenty years of ministry at a megachurch. After finishing his two-year journey, Tim then attended the Sustainable Faith School of Spiritual Direction, eventually joining our team of trainers in spiritual direction. In 2013, Tim felt an invitation to offer a two-year contemplative journey to those around him. Twenty people in the Peoria, IL area signed up for this experience called Soul Space and entered into the inaugural cohort from January 2014 to October 2015.  Since then, four more cohorts in Peoria IL have developed, two cohorts in Louisville KY, and invitations to Chicago IL and Tulsa OK are currently in the hopper. As of this writing, over 150 people have now experienced the blessings of Soul Space, experiencing a renewed life and union with God in ways they never expected!

After a decade of training up hundreds of men and women in the ancient disciplines of spiritual direction, we at Sustainable Faith realize the increasing need for similar training opportunities for countless others who are just beginning to hear and respond to Jesus’ invitation to slow down, better care for their souls, learning to live a life that reflects the Master’s simple invitation to “come and rest” in Him. Bringing our School of Contemplative Living (AKA Soul Space) to more locations around North America is our response to this growing need.

Here’s some quotes from those who attended recent retreats…

“I have learned more about God and myself in the past two years than in my first 65 years combined and I have been in the church all my life!”

“The day was very enlightening and refreshing.  Through light direction, we were able to come to a place where the Spirit could bring truth about our current condition and the direction that the Lord is leading.  It was encouraging on many levels and I would highly recommend it for people at any stage of their walk.  There is no doubt that Jesus was the leader of the day and was present and active in a very real way.”

“We got a taste of Jesus.  When we get quiet it opens up space for Him to speak to us.”

“Very helpful and revealing at the same time. (God) revealed to me some of my strengths and I was encouraged to use (those strengths) even more. I was blessed through this day.”