Mountain Learning Center
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The Mountain Learning  Center.


Below are the MLC's most frequently asked questions, answered.

What are your available Retreat dates and fees? Why isn't this data available on your Web site?
We deliberately do not list our Retreat dates and fees on-line.  We believe that ministry is relationship — and our first contact with you is a highly valued contact point of relationship.  So, we’d like to talk with you on the phone and personally interact with you.  You’ll find that we’re friendly, personable, and safe people to confide in.  All conversations are confidential.  You may also request a formal phone appointment to discuss your situation with Dr. Veenker at no cost.  Please call our office during business hours and we’ll gladly give you the current available Retreat dates and fees — along with information regarding partial scholarships (1-800-293-2508).  For those of you who are simply gathering information, we are happy to email you the current Retreat dates and fee.

Do you accept insurance?
At this current time, we do not accept insurance.

Do you offer scholarships?  How do I go about seeing if we qualify for a scholarship?
Most Pastor Retreat participants qualify for some kind of financial assistance.  The Mountain Learning Center raises funds specifically to provide partial scholarships.  We also are able to request partial scholarships from God’s Gift Foundation on your behalf as well.  We do encourage ministries to provide partial financial assistance to those coming to a Retreat as many of the things one learns at a Retreat are applicable to ones’ local ministry setting.  Call our office to inquire about partial scholarship funds (1-800-293-25-08). 

How do I reserve a date of participation in a specific Pastor Retreat?
There are a couple of ways to reserve your Retreat participation dates.  The first is to call our office and get your name penciled in on specific dates.  Once you have either, 1) sent in a deposit check; and/or 2) made a deposit with your credit card, then you are formally registered for the specific dates you are requesting.  We charge a $500, non-refundable fee to hold your dates of participation.  The $500 deposit is applied to the total Retreat fee.  Because we only allow three couples per Retreat, we do this on a first come, first serve basis.  The sooner we have your deposit, the better the chance of holding the dates you desire to reserve.  Because the summer Retreat dates tend to fill by late spring, we encourage you to reserve space as soon as possible.  Once we have received your Retreat deposit, you will receive a confirmation letter along with inventories, directions, etc.

Where is the Mountain Learning Center located?
The Mountain Learning Center Pastors Retreat is located in June Lake, Mono County, California.  We are approximately 150 miles due South of Lake Tahoe; 30 minutes driving time from the Eastern Gate of Yosemite National Park (California Highway 120). Most guests fly into the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (Reno, Nevada), rent a car, and enjoy some of finest scenery in the Untied States while driving three hours South on US Highway 395.  June Lake is one of four lakes on California Highway 158---which forms a loop on and off of US Highway 395.  Other guests are able to make flight connections to a limited number of commuter flights on Horizon Air which flies into the Mammoth-Yosemite Airport, located just 20 minutes from June Lake.  We can make arrangements for you to be picked up at the Mammoth Airport and shuttled to June Lake.         

Do You Provide Child Care? Can Our Kids Attend as Well?
We believe the greatest gift parents can give their kids and families is a healthy, developing, passionate, and secure grace-filled marriage.  Research in the field of marriage and family studies supports this as well.  Consequently, we do not allow the kids to come to the Pastors Retreat because the focus is on your development and your marriage relationship; first things first.  We have found in over 30 years of ministry with Christian leaders that many clergy couples, particularly those who have high stress, abusive church situations, or cross-culture ministry contexts, children become distractions to the couple's care of themselves and marriage.  Consequently many of the kids go into major spiritual rebellion in their teens and young adulthood, which creates new challenges for everybody!

Now having clarified that, we have welcomed clergy families to arrange a one week family intensive Retreat with the Mountain Learning Center for family counseling and transformation ONCE mom and dad have: 1) participated in a Pastor's Retreat; and 2) demonstrated transformational change in their life, ministry, and marriage (follow-up records reveal this occurs within six months of a Pastor's Retreat).  We have been extraordinarily blessed with the fruitful results the Lord brings about in families when we have followed this practice.

Do you offer one week intensives?
The short answer is no, we do not offer one week intensives for clergy couples.

Why?  Ministry in the context of a culture desiring instant gratification goes against transformational soul work.  Addressing the internal issues of the soul, the forming of the image of Christ in our character (spiritual formation) requires time — time to tell your story, time to reflect, time to interact safely with other believers, time to pray, and time to listen and hear from God.  In our thirty years of experience working with clergy world wide, we have found one week of intense therapy does not necessarily provide the impetus for life-giving, characterological core transformation.  In fact, we have discovered that even our eleven-day Retreat merely sets the foundation for one year of follow-up, which when taken advantage of, results in significant transformational healing and deep core transformation.

Do you offer family counseling?
Yes, but with this caveat:  only when the parents have participated in a Pastors Retreat first.  Over the years we have had Pastor Retreat alumni arrange a four-to-five day Family Retreat with much success for all involved — mainly because mom and dad have done some inner work on themselves at a Pastors Retreat.  The format for a Family Retreat is quite different from the Pastors Retreat.  We charge a straight up hourly fee for counseling sessions; all other arrangements (housing; food; free-time activities, etc.) are on your own. Call the office on the toll free telephone number for more information.

What model of counseling do you utilize?  What is your approach to minister care and transformational development to the soul?
Dr. Russ Veenker employs an eclectic clinical model using sound psychological and sociological principles rooted in, and guided by solid Biblical Theology.  Dr. Veenker is a Pastoral Counselor who listens and counsels the whole person — their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual components — with a transformational and developmental view toward life-giving spiritual formation in Christ.  He is a comprehensive cognitive therapist who considers the life story of each client focusing upon:  personality components, emotional development, family-of-origin relationships, life defining moments, neurological, psycho-social and spiritual development, marital relations, and ministry experiences.

Dr. Veenker is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (Biblical and Theological Studies pertaining to counseling and education) and Fuller Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry) where the special emphasis of his doctoral studies has been the nurture and development of clergy.  He is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor (Board of Christian Professional and Pastoral Counselors).  His academic and clinical expertise is comprehensive to theological anthropology:  balancing the human condition midst the stresses and hazards of vocational ministry is his passion.  He is a frequent speaker at clergy gatherings and is known for his competency discussing and equipping ministry leaders in addressing areas of personal health with such topics as stress and burnout; depression; anxiety; sexuality; psycho-social developmental transitions; clergy self-care; marriage/family development; life-long leadership development; and ministering to troubled individuals with personality disorders.

What qualifies us to work with clergy?
            1)  Ministry Experience - Dr. Veenker has served in a variety of ministry roles for over thirty years.  He understands experientially what it is like to live in the “front-line trenches” of leading and discipling people in Jesus’ Church — along with all the hazards and stresses.  He has extensive experience in youth ministry (large church, multiple staff) and pastoral ministry roles (pastor, interim pastor, and church planting pastor). 
            2)  Academic Competency - Dr. Veenker has completed rigorous academic training in the disciplines of Biblical Theology, Psychology, and Sociology as applied to a special group of people:  Christian Leaders.
            3)  Clinical Expertise - Nine out of ten (90%) of  Retreat Alumni report that within one year of participating in a Pastors Retreat, the issues that brought them to the Retreat are no longer debilitating their personal life, marriage, and/or ministry (see Alumni Comments on the MLC Website).  The Mountain Learning Center has been ministering to the relational needs of God’s people for over 30 years.
            4)  World-wide recognized Caregiving Competency - Our expertise in the care, encouragement, and developmental needs of clergy is recognized world-wide as Dr. Veenker and his wife Kandy serve as associate staff with Christian Associates International — a high-impact church planting missional initiative — ministering to the life-long developmental growth needs of Christian leaders in Europe and beyond.

What other services do you offer church leadership?
Three Day Leadership Marriage Intensives.  Over the years we have received many requests asking if we offer marriage intensives “like you have for clergy.”  Many of these inquires come from fellow church staff members and leaders who have witnessed the powerful transformation in many of our Retreat Alumni participants.  Consequently, we now offer “Three-day Leadership Marriage Intensives.”  Here’s what they look like:  The Retreat fee covers 12 + hours of counseling (individual and couple counseling and three inventories — the equivalent of three months marriage growth work); lodging in a private suite which is complete with a kitchen, living room, separate bedroom and spacious bathroom; and 2 continental breakfasts and afternoon snacks (couples responsible for lunches and evening meals).  Call the MLC Office for available dates and current fees.

Coaching.  Dr. Veenker has always been a counselor-coach-consultant to the Pastor Retreat Alumni.  On a broader basis, he also offers his services to churches embroiled in conflict and difficult or sensitive personnel issues.  He has facilitated Leadership Growth and Development Retreats; Conflict Transformation Interventions; guidance in addressing Church Systemic problems and a wide diversity of complex and compelling people problems within the local church context.  Should you find your congregation “stuck” with repetitious patterns, Dr. Veenker has the gifts, training, and experience to assist you in addressing these often complex and sensitive issues in a sound Biblical and redemptive manner.
Alumni Refreshers.  Beginning in 2010, we now offer one week “Refreshers” for Alumni of our eleven-day Pastor Retreats.  The fee covers your housing and meals; group counseling in the mornings (up to three couples); and couple and individual sessions in the afternoons.  When not meeting with Dr. Veenker, couples will have plenty of time to relax, renew, and refresh their souls in the beautiful Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains!  Call the office for current one week Alumni Refresher Retreat dates and fees.


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