First Love 2025

A Renovaré Retreat for Pastors and Ministry Leaders

April 28- May 1, 2025 · Hickory, NC

“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.” – Matthew 11:28


First Love is an opportunity to recenter your connection with Jesus. This four-day, three-night Renovaré retreat gives pastors and ministry leaders in pastoral roles a chance to reconnect with God in a safe space among others who understand the pastoral calling with all of its joys and challenges. 

Our relationship with the Lord forms and grows slowly, layer upon layer, through our personal encounters with God’s loving Presence. This bond with God is the core that shapes us and empowers our ministry. So returning to that central relationship, protecting and strengthening that bond with Father, Son, and Spirit, is essential to our spiritual health and our ability to pastor others.

Who It's For

This retreat is designed specifically for those in pastoral roles—pastors and ministry leaders from all Christian traditions, men and women, who:

  • care deeply about their congregation’s depth and renewal in Christ, 
  • feel called to cultivate authentic, formational community, 
  • know that they can only give what they first receive from God.

What To Expect

  • A small, relaxed event with no more than fifty leaders   
  • Generous space for connecting with God in a beautiful setting 
  • Teaching and guided practices for strengthening your spirit and your calling
  • Honest conversations with others on a similar journey
  • Wonderful food and comfortable accommodations 

Location & Accomodations

The Catholic Conference Center is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Hickory, North Carolina, one hour from the Charlotte airport (CLT).

Catholic Conference Center
1551 Trinity Ln
Hickory, NC 28602  

Rooms include two full-sized beds, an en suite bathroom, and a desk.

Lodging and all group sessions will take place in the main retreat center building.

First Love23

Retreat Ministry Team

Miriam Dixon

Miriam Dixon

Speaker · Pastor for 40 Years

Miriam (Mimi) Dixon began her ministry in 1979 serving as an associate pastor at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington. From April of 1985 to May of 2019 she served as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Golden, Colorado. She earned both her MDiv and DMin degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary. Mimi is on the Renovaré Board of Directors and teaches for the Renovaré Institute. She is faculty for Next Frontiers, a ministry to pastors in transition, and actively promotes Christian Spiritual Formation, crediting Richard Foster and Dallas Willard for their influence in her life and ministry. Mimi has authored Worth Celebrating: a biography of Richard J Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, available through Barclay Press.

Kai Nilsen

Kai Nilsen

Speaker · Pastor for 30+ Years

Kai is Senior Pastor of Incarnation Lutheran in Shoreview, Minnesota. Previously he served as lead pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio, after having joined the staff in 1993. Beyond his pastoral work, Kai is on the Renovaré Ministry Team and teaches in the Renovaré Institute for Spiritual Formation. In 2009, Kai completed his Doctor of Ministry degree through Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. Kai’s book Renew Your Life: Discovering the Wellspring of God’s Energy was published in the fall of 2015. Kai and his wife Patty are parents of four children — Anders, Annika, Leif and Siri.

Ted Harro

Ted Harro


Ted Harro serves as President of Renovaré. He is a graduate of the Renovaré Institute and the founder of Noonday Ventures, a strategy and leadership development firm. Ted has studied and taught inside-out transformation for more than 20 years. He uses humor and creativity to make spiritual change accessible to people in a wide variety of marketplace and ministry contexts. He and his wife Gretchen have been married since 1988 and have been partners in marriage ministry for over 25 years. They have invested in hundreds of couples as mentors, teachers, retreat leaders, writers, and co-founders of a ministry for newlyweds.

Brandan Spencer

Brandan Spencer

Brandan serves as the Renovaré Director of Church Engagement. He’s a former ordained Pastor & Leadership Coach with almost two decades of experience in influencing people towards holistic growth and enhancing leader effectiveness. His passion is innovation and exploring what’s possible in the kingdom of God when people lead from a grounded character, not just performance. Brandan comes to Renovaré after spending nine years on staff at a gospel-centered, multiethnic, intergenerational church in Monrovia, CA. During his time there he held multiple roles that implemented a vision for transformation including small groups, local community engagement, spiritual formation & leadership, unleashing volunteers, and curating various discipleship resources. He’s been married to his best friend Tiana since 2005, and they have three daughters! He loves learning through taking things apart, Marvel comics, gravel bikes, and getting lost in the great outdoors of camping.

Cost & Registration