Summer Leadership Institute is a four-day leadership training institute for Orthodox Christian college students and young adults (ages 18-25). Learn what it means to be an Orthodox leader in OCF, the Church, and the world. Read below for more details on the curriculum and how to register.

Save the date for Summer Leadership Institute 2020, August 12-15

Stay tuned for registration info

Hear what other students have to say about their experience

“During SLI, you grow as an Orthodox Christian not only by learning about your faith in the theological or doctrinal sense, but by harnessing essential life skills like public speaking, servant leadership, organization and planning, and conflict resolution and giving them back to the Church.”


“When it all comes together in the end it’s like this beautiful retreat where you’re having fun, you’re learning, and you’re with some of the greatest people on earth.”

– Evyenia

“SLI has been a really cool opportunity to hear a lot of really brilliant, knowledgeable speakers share with us from their own experience what it means to be an Orthodox leader.”

– Paul

SLI 2020 will be held August 12 – 15 at St. Iakovos Retreat Center in Kansasville, WI.

Read below for more details on the 2019 curriculum. Scholarships are available for registration and travel. Details can be found on the registration page.

Foundations of Leadership

All students will participate in the following sessions (details subject to change):

Good and Faithful Servant: Investing Your Talents in the Kingdom
Each of us have been called to offer ourselves wholly to Christ, and you have answered this call to serve as a leader in OCF and in the Church. What does it mean to be a Christian leader? How will you use your talents to serve God? How will you work with the other members of your team to serve God and learn to love each other more perfectly? We will use a strengths assessment as a tool to understand our talents, our weaknesses, and our interactions with each other as young Orthodox leaders.
Pan-Orthodox Ministry
OCF has the great blessing of being the only Assembly agency that is actively joining together Orthodox Christians from every jurisdiction. This session will give us an opportunity to discuss our own experiences and understanding of pan-Orthodox ministry as well as create some guiding principles for our work as leaders.

The Spiritual Gift of Generosity

Too often we treat the subject of fundraising and stewardship as if the material needs of the Church and the world are somehow “unclean” and not a part of our primary responsibility as Christians. And even more so, college students feel as if they are not capable or ready to think about their own giving.This session will help us all reassess our assumptions about money, giving, generosity, fundraising, and ministry. We’ll take a look at our own legacy of giving and discuss what it means to cultivate the spiritual gift of generosity.

Storytelling: How to Inspire Others with Your Vision

You know what you love, but how can you get others to join in your vision? What makes for a good story? Through role playing and group discussions, we will look at a variety of scenarios in which you may be asked to tell your story. Each participant will have a chance to act out one scenario and receive feedback from your peers

Orthodox Special Topics

Students will select one (1) Orthodox Special Topics workshop. These workshops are an opportunity for participants to dive deeply into Orthodox theology, culture, history, and apologetics.

Christian Symbolism an an Answer to Nihilism with Jonathan Pageau
The breakdown of meaning in the West has taken its toll at all levels, from the confusion in worship to the dissipation of communities, of families, ultimately leading to the fragmentation of human identity and purpose in the world. But as the breakdown accentuates, the fullness presented in the Orthodox tradition appears brighter to those in search of meaning. The deep interwoven patterns of the Bible which still express themselves in Orthodox anthropology, architecture, liturgy, and iconography offer a hint of the mystery of Christ.
Jonathan Pageau is a professional icon carver. He is also editor of the Orthodox Arts Journal, gives public lectures, and hosts an online media channel named The Symbolic World where he discusses symbolism with Christians, searchers, and atheists all at once.

Pan-Orthodox Collaboration in American Orthodox History with Matthew Namee

Movements toward American Orthodox unity and cooperation have a surprisingly long history. We’ll discuss some of the key leaders and moments in pan-Orthodox collaboration and discover what lessons we can learn from the past. We’ll also talk about what we can do, as Orthodox laypeople, to foster Orthodox unity and even step forward as leaders in the Church.
Matthew Namee has spent ten years blogging about American Orthodoxy at Before that, he was the assistant to Bill James, the father of the “Moneyball” movement in baseball. In his day job, Matthew is General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer for Orthodox Ministry Services, which helps other Orthodox organizations grow and thrive. He and his wife Catherine have five kids and attend Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in Vancouver, WA

Getting Saved in America: How to Talk to Non-Orthodox about Your Spiritual Journey with Fr. Brendan Pelphrey

This session will look at some of the questions Orthodox Christians are likely to be asked, and why these questions are frequently raised: especially, how we understand the Trinity, salvation, and worship. Participants should be bring examples of questions they have been asked before. This topic may be most important for students who have not previously lived outside an Orthodox Christian context, or who feel that they did not have a good grounding in Orthodox theology and spirituality.

Rev. Dr. Brendan Pelphrey is a retired priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese who works with the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical, and Interfaith Relations, the OCF, and as a missions specialist for the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. Among other topics he has taught Orthodox theology and spirituality, world religions, the history of science, and Western Civilization in a number of universities and theological seminaries in Hong Kong and the United States, including Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology (Brookline, MA), St Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary (South Boundbrook, NJ) and St. Mary’s (Roman Catholic) Seminary (Houston, TX). He and Presvytera Sharon live in San Antonio, Texas, and he is currently involved in Orthodox and inter-church projects in Denmark, Sweden, and England.

Practical Ministry

Students will select one (1) Practical Ministry workshop.

The Ministry of Listening with Christian Gonzalez
Christians, especially Christian leaders, often feel the need to contribute something when they are with others: advice, opinions, or theological reflection. Unfortunately, many frequently forget that listening can be just as valuable (or even more valuable!) a ministry as speaking. In this session, Christian Gonzalez will explore the unique role that listening plays in our own spiritual lives, in our relationships with others, and the ways it is manifest through a theology of ministry that is deeply rooted in Christ’s Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.

Christian Gonzalez is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, and CrossFitter. Christian has an MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary and is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Practical Guidance for Peacemaking in the Church with Fr. Philip LeMasters

Resources for peacemaking in the Orthodox Church are often overlooked to the detriment of all concerned. This session draws on Orthodox worship and belief to help young leaders think about how they may respond to conflict in a way that manifests the peace for which the Church prays in the Divine Liturgy. The session will challenge participants to consider the practical implications of our faith through discussion of case studies and sharing of their experiences in peacemaking in parish and other church-related settings.

Fr. Philip LeMasters lives in Abilene, TX, where he is the pastor of St. Luke Orthodox Church (Antiochian Archdiocese) and Professor of Religion at McMurry University. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees at St. Vladimir’s Seminary and teaches there as an adjunct professor. Fr. Philip studies and writes about ethics and moral theology with a focus on practical challenges such as peacemaking, poverty, politics, sexuality, and interfaith cooperation in the context of the Orthodox faith. He is married to a pediatrician and has two daughters who are university students in North Carolina. Fr. Philip likes to cook, exercise, and speak Spanish to his perplexed cats.

Facilitating Great Discussions with Anna Kallis

A major part of college life–and life after college–is learning and growing through discourse. Orthodox Christian leaders must also learn how to engage those around them in discussion, allow opinions to be expressed, and walk on the path of salvation with humility and meekness alongside those whom we engage in conversation. What does this facilitation look like, and how can we do it in OCF? What styles of facilitation exist, and what skills are necessary to implement them? Most importantly, can we learn to disagree not in the manner the world models for us, but as Orthodox Christians who are always seeking communion and reconciliation?

Anna Kallis works for Faithtree Resources as well as the CrossRoad Summer Institute. She is a curriculum developer and interim Director of Operations for Faithtree Resources she was the co-author of Faithtree’s newest resource, The Relationship Project. She also works for the CrossRoad Summer Institute as the Director for the Chicago Session. In her spare time, Anna teaches the High School Sunday School class and assists her husband in leading the GOYA program at SS. Peter & Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Glenview, IL. Anna graduated with a Masters of Divinity from Holy Cross School of Theology in 2013 focusing her studies in Religious Education and Youth Ministry. She worked for the CrossRoad Summer Institute for four years, first as a staff member and then for three years as the Assistant Director. During that time she developed and taught curriculum as well as trained staff to write and teach high-level curriculum. Additionally in her portfolio of experience, Anna has developed and lead countless retreats, worked as a camp counselor for many summers, and is currently producing her own curriculum for her Sunday School class.