Help Us Create a New Model for Community-Building


For the past four years I have directed a personal storytelling series here in Southern Oregon called “The Hearth: Real Stories by Regular Folks.” Four times a year I gather together six local folks and invite them to share a personal story, told first person, in ten minutes based on a particular theme. Interspersed is live music, food, wine, and reflections on the message and meaning of the stories. We charge $5 and all the proceeds go to support a local non-profit connected to the theme.

Since 2010, the Hearth has produced twenty community events in which over a hundred local folks from forest rangers and receptionists, to lawyers and cafeteria workers have stood in front of their neighbors and shared true stories from their own lives. We have hosted over eighty local musicians and raised awareness of and funds for eighteen different non-profits in our area. The Hearth has developed a creative, meaningful, compassionate approach to strengthening local communities. We want to create more programs so that people can engage the practices of the Hearth more frequently and in more informal settings.

I honestly believe we’ve developed a new model of “church” for those who don’t like church (nor religion). We’ve created a set of practices that allow people to share their lives (fears, struggles, longings, hopes) with one another in a way that deepens community, heals suffering, and inspires service.


We are seeking to raise $12,000 to get this new organizations off the ground. We need as many people as possible to donate (even if it’s a small amount) in order to procure grants. To learn about the campaign and to make a donation go here.

Here’s our video laying out our vision for the Hearth.

The Old Soul Within

Though we may not always sense it, every young person has a soul that waits for God.  The soul is like my aging neighbor who often sits out on his front porch.  He doesn’t own a computer.  He has no understanding of the technological gadgets that fill the eyes and ears of young people.  But he knows the seasons.  He knows the black oaks, sugar pines, and fir trees that line our street.  He can tell you when winter’s breaking up or when a summer rain is gathering over the horizon.  He has wisdom to share for those who take the time to talk with him, and a listening ear for the person whose sorrow has grown too heavy to carry.  My aging neighbor knows how to be grateful and he knows how to grieve.  It’s not unusual to see his eyes fill with tears over a small gesture of beauty and when he laughs it comes from the center of his chest.

What makes my aging neighbor remarkable is that he is still in touch with his humanity.  His capacity for wonder and gratitude hasn’t been diminished or discarded.  He knows how to look and see and feel the sights, sounds and activities of our neighborhood.  He notices and comments on the little changes people make in their yards.  When he sees someone who looks tired or lonely or worn he invites them up to his porch.  My neighbor is still in touch with the presence of God in the world, so when a hardship or struggle is shared with him he often responds, “I’ll take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Inside every young man is an older man like my neighbor, witnessing and savoring the sorrows and pleasures of life.  And inside every young woman is an older woman, a wise woman, who watches in wonder at the life around her. Sometimes my work as a parent is just to help my kids notice this wise soul within, to trust this soul, to spend time on the soul’s porch—because that’s the place where God is met and trusted.

New Dates and Location for Becoming A Spiritual Guide Leadership Intensive

Dates and location for the The Spiritual Guide Leadership Intensive with Mark Yaconelli has changed. The opening retreat will be held at Mercy Center in San Francisco, January 23-26, 2014 and the closing retreat will be April 24-27, 2014. Space is limited to 16. Scholarships to cover retreat costs are available. There are a few openings available. Information is below.

Becoming a Spiritual Guide

A Three Month Leadership Intensive

with Mark Yaconelli




Becoming a Spiritual Guide is an intensive three month program designed and led by author, spiritual director, retreat leader, and veteran minister Mark Yaconelli. Through contemplative retreats, practical teaching, spiritual direction, weekly spiritual practices, engaging group discussions, online correspondence, and selected readings participants will:

  • Deepen their experience of and relationship with the God of Jesus
  • Grow in practice and knowledge of the Christian spiritual arts: prayer, discernment contemplative listening, and compassionate action
  • Learn a variety of spiritual exercises, disciplines, and compassion practices for use with individuals and groups
  • Experience a variety of discernment practices and processes for use within churches, non-profits, and other organizations that seek the Spirit’s guidance
  • Gain personal guidance and clarity on vocational gifts and calling
  • Learn how to hold and heal relational conflicts and personal wounds
  • Learn leadership skills for guiding others in prayer, spiritual practice, discernment, and compassionate action
  • Gain a set of skills, methods, and processes for forming communities that are creative, compassionate, and attentive to the Spirit


Becoming a Spiritual Guide is a personal, practical, and transformative program that is grounded in Christian spiritual growth. The program includes:

  • Two (beginning and closing), three-day retreats led by Mark Yaconelli and a team of trained spiritual directors and worship leaders
  • Twelve weeks of guided spiritual practice
  • Twelve weeks of online teaching and live online discussions with Mark Yaconelli
  • Weekly, individual spiritual direction and counseling
  • Weekly online conversation and support from other program participants
  • A handbook of spiritual practices, exercises, discernment processes, formation programs and methods for leading individuals and groups

ywm-nywc-11Opening Retreat: The Inner-Work of Spiritual Leadership. The primary gift of a spiritual guide is their experience as a spiritual seeker. This opening three-day retreat takes place in a contemplative setting with regular moments of silence, solitude, spiritual direction, guided practices, talks by Mark Yaconelli, and morning and evening worship. Just as Jesus went to the lakeside or up on the mountain to dwell with God, the presentations and exercises for this opening retreat will seek to help participants discern, develop, and deepen their own particular and unique experience of God’s love. The retreat promises to be not only transformational but practical in the way it empowers participants to claim their own unique path of Christian growth.

Closing Retreat: Guiding the Beloved Community. In the closing three-day retreat we will look outward and explore processes and practices that facilitate spiritual growth in communities. In particular we will explore: discernment processes (“How do we help individuals and communities listen and radically respond to God’s spirit?”); spiritual growth practices (“What kind of cultures, leadership, and programs transform and free people to practice the spiritual path of Jesus?”); conflict-resolution (“What practices help a community address unresolved conflict?”); and outreach (“How do we use the skills of spiritual leadership to benefit and address the suffering, and to celebrate the gifts within our communities?”).

For fees, dates, and application information go here.