Skip to Main Content

Clergy Leadership Academy: Learning to lead with radical hospitality

Stravia Jerry

Pastor Jerry Stravia, center, shares ideas during the Clergy Leadership Academy. Photo by Dave Stucke, Dakotas Conference.

Between serving as a licensed local pastor at First UMC in Mitchell, South Dakota and raising four children under the age of 6, Rev. Jerry Stravia IV doesn’t have much time to retreat or gather with colleagues. That’s why he’s grateful for the Dakotas Conference’s Clergy Leadership Academy (CLA). Twice a year, roughly 25 pastors—most in their first three years of ministry—gather at a camp to learn, worship, and recharge.

“The goal is to allow clergy this time apart to not only learn from each other, but to dig deeper into topics that we know impact clergy effectiveness, clergy health, and clergy wholeness,” said Deb Kjerstad, who serves as director of leadership development and leads CLA. “We want to give them an opportunity for ongoing learning that is in a safe, peer-shaped environment.”

Each gathering centers around one of Bishop Robert Schnase’s “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations”: radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity.

Radical hospitality was the focus of the most recent gathering, held at Storm Mountain in October. Rev. Kevin Kloster, district superintendent for the Southwest District and lead pastor at Rapid City Canyon Lake UMC, shared with attendees how to develop a culture of hospitality from the “street to the seat.” He shared hospitality techniques and tips before worship, during worship, and after worship. “Most guests make up their mind to return in seven minutes,” he said. “It is a gut level feeling about the atmosphere. Everything in, around and outside the church building speaks to a first-time guest.”

Radical Hospitality

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, resident bishop for the Dakotas-Minnesota area, did some scriptural digging with participants. He led discussion on why and what radical hospitality looks like in the Christian world. He shared how hospitality is demonstrated in the Bible multiple times and ways. Ough challenged those attending, “How do we regularly stress the importance of hospitality as a mark of Christian discipleship through the preaching and teaching ministries of the church?”

Participants were given the opportunity to do an audit of the current hospitality in their local congregations. Attendees assessed how and where they could take it up a level, look for excellence, and create an action plan for their congregation.

Experiencing radical hospitality was also a part of the October gathering. “We showed the participants radical hospitality in our care for their well-being,” says Deb Kjerstad. “We had time for hiking, rest, yoga, and painting with Lectio Divina.”

Pastors Rick Andrus and Autumn Kruger each led a worship service. Pastor Nicole Anderson led team trust building exercises. Participants were able to experience singing and communion at Emerge ministry, in an out-of-the-box setting at a wine cellar in Rapid City, led by Pastor Brett Roes. 

In addition to spending time in their clergy mentoring group and learning from speakers brought in to address the topic for that retreat, clergy participants have an opportunity to lead, learn, and receive feedback from each other. “I value the diversity of CLA,” said Stravia. “We all have different educational, personal, and relational backgrounds, plus we all have different theological, sociological, and political views, and it’s a nice, safe place to be able to evaluate some of that stuff. I also value hearing the stories of others who are going through what you’re going through. There’s an opportunity for soul searching and navigating your journey with someone who is potentially where you’re at. These gatherings have given me encouragement, courage, and clarity in my call.”

The next CLA will be Feb. 11-13, 2018 at Lake Poinsett. The topic is intentional faith development.


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