ChurchStrong Initiative

For over 20 years, CHR has been actively investing in the lives of Christian leaders, from full-time ministers and missionaries, to pastoral staff, to those pursuing their Christian vocation in various places of work. A foundational part of our mission has been to serve the Church by promoting spiritual growth, emotional health and relational competence. The ChurchStrong effort is just one example of the breadth and depth of the work of The Center for Healthy Relationships

Healthy Leaders, Healthy Ministries

About ten years ago, several men asked Dr. Oliver to host a mini-retreat to share some of the things that God had been teaching him about intra- and inter-personal spirituality. This first, small group met at Subiaco Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in the Ouachita Mountain range of central Arkansas. They wanted to learn more about what it might look like to  become more like Jesus in all of who He made us to be and become — our thinking, our doing and in our feeling. 

This experience was designed to focus on how to spend time, not just learning more about God, but actually spending time with God — how wait, be still and listen. What began as a two-day “retreat” became a four-day “intensive,” primarily for male and female “professional” ministry leaders. 

Recently, CHR has developed an intensive experience for mature “lay” leaders who share the same desire to grow and become more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). 

Our 4-day intensives are still held at Subiaco Abbey, but have also been held at retreat centers in California and Minnesota!

What Others Say About Our Intensives:

I have attended all types of conferences that have great content. The difference this Intensive applied was: sound biblical and spiritual content, practical content, and scientific content. Dr. Oliver took the time to encourage us to practice what we were learning. We took small steps during the Intensive, in turn, he invited us to continue to take small steps which could lead to big differences in our spiritual walk and continued growth in leadership capabilities . . . and over the past several months it HAS made a significant difference.

This intensive has changed the way I view myself and how God is at work my personal life and ministry. It has already helped me put every victory and every failure in its proper context, allowing me to better handle these moments in a much healthier way. I’ve preached on Romans 12:1-2 for decades but never seriously applied it to my own life. I left with an entirely new understanding of role of the brain and the mind in the process of my “becoming conformed to the image of His Son.”

I can’t believe that I’ve taught about the Imago Dei for years, but I’ve realized that I didn’t really understand the very practical implications of that foundational doctrine for my “becoming conformed to the image of His Son” in ALL of who He made me to be and become.”

The ERI Model of Emotional & Relational Spirituality has helped me be more aware of my own tender spots and the emotions that result. My emotional health and awareness frees me to be more available to the people I serve. Additionally, learning to press pause, breathe and pray before responding will serve both my church and my family well. The world is full of shot-gun responses and fiery words right now. Being prepared (that morning abutment) and equipped (ERI) to handle these situations with grace and mercy in the presence of the Holy Spirit has certainly set me apart and already increased my effectiveness for His honor and glory.”

Men's Intensive 2.0 at Subiaco

Going Deeper Discussion Groups

Participants in the intensives as Subiaco Abbey expressed an interest in continuing their investment in their own spiritual, emotional and relational growth. In 2020, CHR began our Going Deeper groups for just this purpose and just for those who have previously participated in an intensive experience.

Participants engage with books and texts intended to further stretch themselves, and then engage with others to better understand how to apply the content to their daily lives, their work and their ministries. These experiences provide meaningful opportunities to continue the conversations and transformations that began during one of the intensives.

Going Deeper groups involve participants from around the United States, and meet in person or online.


Currently, participation in the Healthy Leaders, Healthy Ministries intensives and the Going Deeper groups is by invitation only.

Women's Intensive 2.0 at Subiaco photo