Chris Woodhull recently joined The SoulCare Project to serve as a Strategic Advisor and soul care provider. He is a seasoned minister practicing in Chattanooga, TN. Chris is currently a missionary in residence at The Mission Chattanooga focusing on two city wide initiatives: Build Me a World, a youth development project and Creative Citizenship, promoting civic engagement and creative solutions to tough city problems. His background includes eight years on Knoxville city council and twenty plus years running an inner city ministry outreach to young gang affiliated men, using business as a platform for development. He completed the Graduate Program in Spiritual Formation at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Maryland. He is also on the Leighton Ford Ministry Leadership team hosting and teaching spiritual mentoring and disciplines to ministers around the world.
We recently caught up with Chris over lunch and a cup of coffee at The Camp House:
How were you first introduced to The SoulCare Project?
I was introduced to The SoulCare Project by way of a retreat. It came at a bad time or really, it came at a good time when I was going through a very hard time. Had heard from friends in Knoxville, other people in ministry and people in the business community that the retreats were well done and a little different. I needed different.
Not sure I would have put it this way at the time, but I did not need answers, I needed presence. I needed space. I needed rest. I needed to be in contact with the living God because nothing else was making sense. My mind was filled with words, excuses, explanations, quarrels, my own conversation. I needed the Word, His simple presence. I also needed to be in contact with other men who were willing to talk about the challenges of living this life.
Sounds kind of dramatic and I don’t mean to make it so but I was in a tough place and I had found myself “in a dark wood” as Dante says in the opening lines of the Inferno.
And so the retreat, I believe it was lead by Keith Meyer, provided a wonderful space of rest and solitude and some important things to consider when I arrived back home, things that would help me to build a healthier rhythm in my daily walk with God.
I am delighted to be now working with The SoulCare Project. I have already lead one daylong retreat.
What do you think success looks like at The SoulCare Project?
There are a number of ways to answer this question. I think for us people who lead retreats and provide soulcare, we know things are going well when a person has found their way back to the Lord, is enjoying God’s presence, His friendship. It really is that simple. The weariness and fatigue drops from the eyes, the spirit is lifted and a light returns. That is a success, that is what it looks like.
I suppose on a broader level we want soul care measures utilized in the daily rhythm of life before calamity sets in and so if we can start of movement of soulcare among leaders in the Church and business and the civic arena, we will really be feeling “successful.” If we can jumpstart a culture of soulcare we will be fulfilling our mission as a ministry.
Who tends to benefit from the care we provide?
Well, everybody benefits. There is not a single person who has ever come to us from every walk of life who has not benefitted from our work. Most people come to us after fatigue and the heaviness of life sets in, a hard thing has happened in their life. People tend to go to sleep at night when they are exhausted and not as a movement of care and wellbeing It is the same with the retreats we lead. People often come to the retreats when they are depleted, parched, upset and exhausted.
This is their beginning point for a new way of living.
Are some of the SoulCare strategies useful in other contexts?
Oh yes. I have been using soul care strategies in my inner city work for years. Many of the young men I have worked with are so filled with anger, fear and pain, any kind of relief from this cycle is welcome.
What are some of the challenges facing The SoulCare Project that you see ahead?
The first biggest challenge is to convince more and more people that knowing God directly is as valuable as knowing about God. I know I am sounding facetious but I really mean that, people tend to want information more than they desire actual presence. They may not know that they are making this choice but we see it all around us.
Often when people attend our retreats they are surprised. It is as if they had been sleeping and awaken and are startled to find out that the life they had been living was the “sleep” and that this real way of living is possible.
The second big challenge is to convince, equip, challenge frontline leaders in the Church and the community to practice soulcare for themselves and lead a call to invite others to tend to their souls.
People resist the very thing they crave (rest, restoration, care). They resist by way of busyness and neglect and sometimes outright belligerence. Others are simply unaware that there is a different route to God other than performance. I say, don’t wait for bad things to happen like me. Begin now. Accept the invitation to rest today.