Thriving Leadership Formation

Equipping ELCA leaders for a changing world.

Practice, Learning, Friendship


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Cohorts come together with the intent of creating nurturing and empowering times, spaces, and relationships. They are intended to foster spiritual and contemplative practices in order to enrich life and ministry, and help the church and its leaders thrive. Cohorts meet virtually for 12 sessions using a curriculum of spiritual practices.  Membership is open to rostered and non-rostered leaders in ELCA Regions 1 and 2.

There are two types of Cohorts:

1. At Large Cohorts are organized around a particular group or theme.

2. Synod Cohorts are organized around ELCA Synods in Regions 1 and 2.


Gather with fellow leaders in small groups to encourage and equip each other to live out your faith in ways that make a difference in the world.


Interested in leading a Cohort? Leaders receive training and support to convene a small group.

Personal, Professional, & Spiritual Guidance

Coaching &
Spiritual Direction

Our Coaches & Spiritual Directors are for participants in our Thriving Leadership Formation Cohort Groups (past and present).

Our Coaches partner with you in thought-provoking and creative processes to inspire you to maximize your personal and professional potential.

Our Spiritual Directors are attuned to asking questions about where you are seeing God and the Holy Spirit move, activate and/or disconnected in your life.

It is important to us that you choose the Coach or Spiritual Director you want to connect with. We know each person seeking these resources come with different experiences, hopes, and needs. We invite you to take a few deep breaths center yourself, pray, and then review the information about each Coach and/or Spiritual Director. 

What they say

TLF stories

“I’ve learned the value of spiritual practices that I would have never otherwise have tried. It’s helped connect the head and the heart for me personally.”


Cohort Leader

“The participants in my group look forward to gathering each time. They feel filled with the Spirit and renewed after each gathering. Participants have shared that they feel better able to thrive in ministry when they are tending to their own spiritual renewal and gathering in a safe space with colleagues.”



Cohort Leader

“This doesn’t feel like the regular zoom meetings. This is life giving. It’s reminding me of new practices or I’m learning new practices.”



Cohort Leader

About Us

In 2018, California Lutheran University received a nearly $1 million, five-year grant from the Lilly Endowment to create Thriving Leadership Formation in partnership with its own Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the 11 ELCA synods of Regions 1 and 2.

Thriving Leadership Formation seeks to foster relational, creative, Spirit-led, compassionate forms of ministry that are deeply responsive to local communities. Participants will work in small groups that encourage and equip leaders to live out their faith in ways that make a difference in the world. Session content will focus on spiritual resources, leadership skills, competencies and tools for thriving in the practice of ministry. Opportunities to walk with mentors and coaches enable participants to attend to their own spiritual lives, to the guidance of the Spirit, and to voices, gifts and needs within their communities.

  • ELCA Leaders experience spiritual renewal
  • Embody new spiritual practices (Sabbath, prayer, discernment, spiritual direction)
  • Learn new leadership skills (including but not limited to conflict management, social entrepreneurship, community organizing techniques, emotional intelligence assessments,
    cultural competency, financial management skills, fundraising techniques, marketing skills, strategic planning, organizational development, social media systems)
  • Form new friendships, new spiritual community
  • Form strong relationships with ministers/coaches who will guide them in developing ministry skills/approaches that are relevant and effective for the current age
  • Develop relevant, innovative, responsive forms of outreach to the wider (and more diverse) community
  • Heal loneliness and burnout
  • Revive local congregations and stem the tide of decline

Founded in 1959, California Lutheran University is home to more than 3,059 undergraduate and 1,324 graduate students who come from more than 49 countries and represent a wide variety of faiths. Both in the classroom and outside of it, everyone at Cal Lutheran is committed to helping each student pursue their passions to discover their purpose, and follow that purpose to transform their community — and the world.

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Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) develops leaders in the Lutheran tradition for a complex and changing world. We equip people to put their faith into action as the church and culture face dramatic change; because people who follow their purpose can transform a community — and the world.

Associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary is the only Lutheran seminary in the western half of the United States. PLTS is a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of 19 seminaries and research centers in partnership with the University of California at Berkeley.

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Meet Our Staff

Desta Goehner


Desta is a name that comes from Ethiopia, it means “deep joy”. Desta is a Spiritual Director and the Director of Congregational Relations at California Lutheran University. She is a connection between California Lutheran University and ELCA Regions 1 and 2, as well as ecumenical and interfaith congregations and leaders locally to our campus. Desta has served for over 25 years in Lutheran outdoor ministry, congregational youth ministry and served on the staff of the Southwest California Synod of the ELCA. She is married to an ELCA Pastor and they have 3 children. Desta has been shaped by Cal Lutheran (1996 alum), Lutheran outdoor ministry, Holden Village and the diversity of Southern California. She cares deeply about the church and its leaders. She is invested in spiritual transformation, anti-racism, the Enneagram and healing from trauma in community.

The Rev. Dr. Ray Pickett


Raymond Pickett is the Rector of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminar and a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He has been a professor of New Testament for more than twenty years. He came to PLTS from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where he was professor of New Testament. As a pastor he served congregations in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Manhattan, Kansas.

In addition to teaching New Testament, Dr. Pickett has also been involved in faith-rooted community organizing in various contexts. He has been working with a national group of ELCA leaders who are creatively adapting the arts of community organizing to engage the larger community around issues of racial equity and social justice. He also works with national community organizing networks in grounding the organizing practices in scripture.

Dr. Pickett is deeply committed to forming faithful leaders equipped to mobilize individuals and communities of faith to make a difference in the world by taking risks, collaborating with others, and acting on our faith to make a difference in our communities. He is energized by the challenge of preparing leaders for a diverse, highly secularized West Coast context for a changing Church and complex world and sees it as an opportunity to strengthen the public witness of the church by making theological education more contextual and incorporating practices and strategies for engaging the world.

Nicolette Rohr

Cohort Coordinator

Nicolette Rohr served as the Lay Leader Cohort Leader in the first year of Thriving Leadership Formation. She is a member of Eden Lutheran Church in Riverside, California and currently serves as Vice President of Pacifica Synod. Although she grew up in the Lutheran church and is the granddaughter of a Lutheran pastor, her role in the church has been unexpected and always interesting. She cares about collaborations in ministry, developing cultures of prayer and spiritual practices, especially among non-rostered leaders, and creating more spaces for contemplation, vulnerability, and compassion, like those offered by TLF. Professionally, Nicolette holds a Ph.D. in History and M.A. in Public History from the University of California, Riverside and has worked on a range of preservation, museum, and community history projects, along with teaching courses in U.S. history, the history of the 1960s, and the history of rock music.

Amanda Namba

Program Specialist

After attending California Lutheran University for her undergraduate degree, Amanda felt pulled to serve in the non-profit and higher education settings. After graduating, she served in a variety of roles in the division of Student Affairs at CLU for close to a decade, at which time she also completed her Masters in Public Policy and Administration. In addition to her time at CLU, Amanda has worked for Educational Non-Profits, organizing and designing opportunities for educators from across the country to gather with one another. Most recently, she has served in the Mission & Identity Division at CLU, working closely with Campus Ministry as the Community Engagement Coordinator. Born and raised in Southern California, Amanda calls Ventura County home, where she lives with her husband (who is also a CLU alum!) and their two elementary aged children. Amanda is thrilled to join the TLF team and is excited for the wonderful work being done.

Contact Us

Phone: (805) 493-3576

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