Skip to Main Content
Leadership Development

Higher Ground

Higher Ground Initiative

Rick Craig Highway Sun

Illustration by Higher Ground retreat participant, Rev. Rick Craig.

Clergy fulfill vital societal functions as meaning makers and community builders. Partly because of their important roles, clergy frequently encounter stressful situations. Further, studies suggest that clergy experience high rates of depression. The Dakotas Conference is making an effort to change the overall health of clergy through the newly developed Higher Ground Initiative. This initiative is made possible because of a $925,000 grant received by the Dakotas United Methodist Foundation from the Lilly Endowments Thriving in Ministry program. The Higher Ground Initiative is comprised of two major components— retreats and coaching/mentorship.


Higher Ground Retreats

Higher Ground 2019

The first Higher Ground retreat was held in 2019 in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The Higher Ground retreat track is offered to clergy at their eight-year junctures in ministry. The United Methodist Book of Discipline outlines the requirement that conferences provide processes for regular assessment for clergy every eight years. The Higher Ground retreat track was born out of this requirement, along with the Conference's desire to provide support and accountability for the total well-being of our Dakotas clergy.
Read about Rev. Rick Craig's experience at the Higher Ground retreat here
Read about Rev. Marty Toepke-Floyd's retreat experience here.

Higher Ground Coaching and Mentorships

The second component of Higher Ground is a process of customized individual or group coaching support. The Dakotas Conference is partnering with several organizations, counseling services, spiritual directors, and coaches in order to address the specific development goals identified by the pastor and their congregation. The coaching track allows clergy to identify a support person or program to help them accomplish goals they have set through their annual self and Staff / Parish-Pastor Relations Committee assessments as well as one-on-one meetings with district superintendents.
Read about the latest Higher Ground well-being opportunities here.

The Dakotas Conference is making an effort to change the overall health of the clergy through the newly developed Higher Ground Initiative, funded through the Lilly Endowment. The initiative centers around five key aspects of well-being: social, financial, physical, emotional, and spiritual.



Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church 605.996.6552 1331 University Ave. Mitchell SD 57301-0460 US 43.69689310 -98.03291320 122 W. Franklin Avenue Ste 400 Minneapolis MN 55404 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 W University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000