"Our church has a great need to be a safe place - a grace place to be able to work on our shame as leaders is vital to growth of the Gospel."   - Retreat Participant


Jesus says in John 10:10b, “I’ve come that they may have life and have it to the full.”  Sarah holds the belief that faith-filled people should be the most alive people on the planet . . . but so much gets in the way of actually living in this abundant life!  Filling that gap is what her work is about.

Sarah feels deeply called to empower people to say Yes! to what feeds their souls and No to what steals their joy.  This is accomplished through bringing faith and the work of Dr. Brené Brown together in The Daring Way™ for Faith Communities.

What must be accomplished?

A healthy church is essential to serving God and God’s people well.  “Isolation.”  “Comparison.”  “Fear.”  “Judgment.” “ People-pleasing.”  are words at times church leaders use to describe struggles in ministry.  But we can do better.

Simply consider statistics available about ELCA church leaders. According to Portico’s 2012 Health Assessment:

  •  62% of respondents self-reported their emotional stress as a risk factor to their health. 
  • 18.8% reported depression as a medical condition.  Shame is highly correlated with depression, aggression, addiction, and suicide.

The effects of this are decreased vitality in ministry, often seen as “placeholder pastorates,” clergy burnout, and unhealthy congregational dynamics.  Clergy consultant and psychologist Karen McClintock writes, “I believe congregations are in decline because they have become shame-bound”  (Challenge, 1).  The urgency of addressing shame is also apparent in Susan Beaumont’s work with church growth.  She writes, “I see shame binding the adaptive learning process that is needed to move into a new future” (Bound, 1).

How will this campaign accomplish this goal?

We can be a healthier church.  This campaign will support a series of Daring Way™ for Faith Communities retreats, workshops, and educational seminars held in 2015 and 2016 within ELCA churches heavily targeting clergy and lay leaders while being open to all who love the church.  Imagine a church filled with vitality, boldness, connection, and increased hope!  The goal is to support at least 100 church leaders in the ‘deep dive’ of an intensive retreat (2-2.5 days) and to introduce an additional 500 leaders and congregational members to Daring Way™ for Faith Communities through shorter events.  

**Grant funds can subsidize congregational events up to 50% of the event fee.  Grant funds currently subsidize each individual church leader who attends an intensive.  In addition to the support all leaders receive, additional full and partial scholarships are also available.

Impact:  Already and Yet to Come  

Luther Seminary has taken the lead in offering a series of weekly Daring Way™ courses over 3 semesters to strengthen future church leaders’ understanding of how shame, vulnerability, and authenticity works within their lives so they may become more effective leaders.  Feedback shows that this is working.  Consider the impact this seminarian experienced: 

Through my work  with Sarah, I have been transformed.  The work of sharing my shame with others so I no longer carry it alone has been redemptive.  I am taught ways to listen to the negative voices in my head . . . and not letting them rule my life.  I am able to enter arena’s with more confidence and empathy for myself and others.  It had helped me die to my old way of shame talk taking the wheel, and gave me new life.  

Our greatest commandment is to love God, and love our neighbors AS OURSELVES.  I believe that the Daring Way™ has the tools to help us do just that; learn how to love ourselves in order to better love the community.


By taking part in a Daring Way™ for Faith Communities event, ELCA leaders and members will experience:

Pastor Sarah is passionate about the work of Brenè Brown and is gifted at bringing scripture and faith into the conversation in an authentic way.
— Pastor Amanda
  • Greater clarity around areas of personal growth related to authentic life and leadership 
  • Increased resilience in the face of many inner and outer challenges of leadership
  • Learning and practicing healthy strategies to use when in debilitating shame ...
  • Honed critical awareness to cultural myths around vulnerability and how these limit connect with self, God, and others
  • Revitalized connection of “soul and role” 
  • Tools for cultivating daily practices of living and loving with our whole hearts

Support is available to participants through peer-learning circles which will meet virtually on a monthly basis for  6 months after participation in the intensive.  

What is distinctive about this initiative?

The Daring Way™ for Faith Communities is based on the 12 years of research conducted by Dr. Brené Brown.  

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.  She studies vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  Her groundbreaking research has been featured on PBS, NPR, CNN, The Katie Show, and Oprah Winfrey's Super Soul Sunday. 

About Sarah as the Leader of This Initiative

"This is what gets me up in the morning and keeps me up at night; I feel deeply called by God and passionate to support the church in this way.  This is my passion!  My own life, ministry, and faith have been profoundly and deeply transformed by this work and I want to share it with other pastors and church leaders.  I’ve been an ELCA pastor for 14 years, am working to become a Board Certified Chaplain, and am the only clergy member nationally to be selected as a Case Consultant with the Daring Way™."    - Sarah   

Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center, Carefree, AZ is serving as the fiscal agent for this ministry.  Spirit in the Desert has been serving the church since the early 1990's.  You can learn more at their website www.spiritinthedesert.org.


Our Donors

Daring Caring (gifts of $5,000 and up)

         The Bell Family Foundation for Hope

Anonymous donor

Anonymous donor, made in honor of 'Grandma and Grandpa Soda'

Authenticity (gifts of $1,000 to $2,499) 

Rev. Sarah and Tim Ciavarri

Rev. Lori Lathrop

Mr. and Mrs. John and Eileen Quello, in honor of Julius and Dorothea Quello

Courage (gifts up to $999)

         3 Anonymous donors

        Drs. Nancy Ciavarri and Tom Verme

       Rev. Marv and Shirley Roloff      

      Dan and Kris Walseth, in honor of Rev. Sarah Ciavarri

Works Cited

Beaumont, Susan.  "Bound by Shame."  Alban Weekly 454/8 (April 2013): 4.

McClintock, Karen A.  "The Challenge to Change."  Alban Weekly 426 (September 24, 2012).

Online:  http://www.alban.org/conversation.aspx?id=10084.