Teaching, Training, Resourcing

Hinton Rural Life Center’s retreat, mission outreach, and training ministries provide opportunities for churches, small groups, organizations, and individuals to grow in knowledge, faith, understanding, skills, empathy, and leadership — equipping and empowering them to bring help, healing, and hope to others. This page features ongoing opportunities that are coordinated and led by Hinton staff. Some are focused on equipping and resourcing our neighbors in Clay, Cherokee, and Towns counties, while others focus on discipleship and mission outreach, drawing church groups and leadership from across the Southeast and beyond. Technology allows us to offer virtual trainings and presentations across the country.

In addition to the training, equipping, and retreat opportunities featured on this page, you’ll find Hinton-developed resources for local churches, including United Methodist confirmation curriculum, a mission-focused small group/Sunday school curriculum, and resources to support the ministry of smaller membership churches. There are recommended articles, books, and online activities related to mission outreach. We have also included the 2017 Quality of Life Study, with enlightening research on the Southern Appalachian community we serve and compelling insights and recommendations that are guiding Hinton in our mission to help communities become more thriving for all.

Rural Poverty Simulation


“Our staff still can’t stop talking about what we learned from the Poverty Simulation. The experience impacted us individually AND helped us empathize and understand all the more the challenges that our low-income clients face on a daily basis.”

Deanne Everton, Executive Director

Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley

 The Rural Life Poverty Simulation, or “PovSim,” is a large-group activity that helps participants gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by those living in poverty in rural communities. During this hands-on simulation, participants are grouped into rural “families” and respectfully “step into their shoes,” with each family experiencing unique dynamics, resources, and challenges. In timed sessions, families interact with various community organizations, pay bills, and react to a variety of unexpected scenarios. Previous participants say they gained perspective, recognized privilege, and experienced stress, frustration, and moments of confusion. Many described their PovSim experience as eye-opening, adding that it changed their previous view of rural poverty. 

Although the experience of those living in poverty is similar across geographic areas, there are unique struggles for those in rural communities. Hinton developed the Rural Life Poverty Simulation to provide an experiential educational approach to increase awareness and understanding of rural issues of poverty, highlighting the structural issues that lead to and sustain rural poverty. The PovSim is often used at Hinton with mission teams, but can also be taken “on the road” by Hinton staff and, with the help of local volunteers, held on-site at churches, schools, community centers, and conferences.

The PovSim was created as part of a master’s level research project at Western Carolina University by Rachel Ahrens-Price, a former Hinton summer staffer. It is reasearch based and was edited by many contributors, including Alexis Gregg who created the spreadsheet. The PovSim is currently managed by Hinton’s Director of Program Ministries Rev. Dawn Martin, who has nearly 20 years of experience working with people in poverty. She is aided by Program Ministries Assistant Ella Stilwell, who has a heart and passion for the rural community.

The PovSim is one of several poverty awareness activities Hinton can provide for mission teams and retreat groups. It is also available for churches and community organizations to purchase for local use. For more info on the PovSim and to schedule a PovSim as part of your Hinton experience, contact Dawn Martin at revdawn@hintoncenter.org or 828-389-8336. For more info on purchasing the PovSim, use the button below.

Mental Health First Aid

Many communities struggle with the challenges of mental health issues, but rural areas are particularly vulnerable. To help destigmatize mental health challenges/crises and help adults in any setting — church, work, family, friends, school, community — be more equipped to give support, Hinton offers two virtual Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses: Adult MHFA and Youth MHFA (for parents/guardians and adults who work with youth, such as teachers, coaches, church youth leaders, employers, etc.). Participants learn how to recognize signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis/challenge, become more equipped to respond in offering support, and learn how to connect with appropriate help, as needed.

Cost is $45/person and includes training materials, preparation work, access to manual, and virtual training session. Participants complete a 2-hour, self-paced online course prior to the Zoom training, led by Hinton Center staff. For the 6-6.5 hour virtual training, participants should have access to a computer and internet connection. For more details and to schedule a virtual training for your organization or group, email info@hintoncenter.org.  The flyers linked to the left also give more information. And, check Hinton’s web site Calendar of Events for upcoming trainings scheduled in the fall and winter.

Leadership Chatuge Community Builders


Class VIII : Mondays, January 27 – April 14, 2025

Live or work in Clay, Cherokee, or Towns counties and want to see your community thrive? Leadership Chatuge Community Builders provides a solid foundation for you to be a more knowledgeable and effective leader in our rural mountain area. Topics for this 12-week course include: personal leadership styles, regional economic development and opportunities, local history and Appalachian culture, community supports, understanding social determinants of health, and much more. Highlights include speakers who are experts in their fields, networking opportunities, resources, and engaging presentations. (View the 2024 syllabus HERE.) Registration opens October 1.

  • For adults and high school students in Clay and Cherokee counties, NC, and Towns County, GA.
  • Employers, this is a great opportunity to help new employees get acquainted with the community.
  • Class size limited for optimal instruction and interaction.
  • 12 weeks; Mondays, 5:30pm-8:30pm; at Hinton Rural Life Center, Hayesville.
  • Early-bird tuition is $375, if register by December 31. Includes speakers, weekly dinners, and supplies. After December 31, tuition is $425.
  • Applications available online HERE and at Hinton’s administration office.
  • Some partial scholarships are available. Apply by January 10. Email jackie@hintoncenter.org include why you’re interested in taking the class. You’ll be notified by January 15 if a scholarship will be provided.
  • Applications due/online registration closes at midnight January 17, 2025. 
  • If  you or your organization wish to be a sponsor of Leadership Chatuge Community Builders, click HERE.

For scholarship information, to obtain an application, or for more details, email jackie@hintoncenter.org .

council for collaborative impact


The Council for Collaborative Impact (CCI)  is comprised of individuals from Clay, Cherokee, and Towns counties who wish to keep abreast of services available for neighbors in our community that specifically address the areas of education, transportation, economic development, children’s issues, substance misuse, housing, and technology. They represent each of these areas through their work, volunteerism, and/or personal knowledge/interest and work collaboratively to better meet community needs in impactful and transformative ways.*

Any interested individuals may attend CCI meetings, held four times a year. Each meeting features a guest speaker who addresses a topic that has regional impact and who can be a resource for our community. Updates from each of the task force areas are then shared. 


All meetings are on Thursdays, from 8:30-10am, with complimentary breakfast service starting at 8:15am in the Lodge Dining Room; the meeting is held in the Lodge’s Moore Great Hall. Meetings and speakers for 2024:

  • February 8 — Lorrie Ross, Mountain Projects preventionist and Clay County Progress staff writer/photographer on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and its community impact. 
  • May 9 — Jessi Stone, Director, WNC Economic Recovery Program (western region), Pisgah Legal Aid; TO ATTEND: Register by Friday, May 3, by emailing jeremy@hintoncenter or use the online registration link HERE.
  • August 8 — Jacqueline Gottlieb, CEO & President, Hinton Rural Life Center, on the impact of educational strategies in Safe & Healthy Home initiatives; breakfast meeting will be held in Hinton’s Educational Tool Barn, across from the Clay County Food Pantry. 
  • November 14

Want to learn more about CCI and/or join a task force to help impact our community? Contact Hinton’s Community Connections Coordinator Jeremy Jenkins at 828-389-8336 or jeremy@hintoncenter.org.

* To learn more about how the task force areas were identified and the development of CCI, you can access a video about Hinton’s 2017 Quality of Life Study and a pdf of the study that are available in the Training, Retreats, and Resources section below. 


2025 Weekends:

Feb. 28 – March 2, March 14-16, March 21-23, March 28-30

Theotokos retreats are for youth participating in United Methodist Confirmation, their leaders (clergy and laity), and other accompanying adults. Although youth as young as 6th graders may participate, the Theotokos retreat will be more meaningful for older youth, recommending that participants be in 7th grade or older. (Older youth who were confirmed during Covid and not able to have a retreat experience are also welcome to participate!) Theotokos retreats are designed to support and complement the Confirmation ministries of local United Methodist congregations, who are the faith communities, “God families,” and key disciple makers of young people.

For more information and to register, visit the Theototokos Confirmation web site at www.hintontheotokos.org.

Trainings, Retreats, & Resources

Theotokos Connections Confirmation Curriculum

For clergy and/or youth leaders looking for a United Methodist confirmation curriculum, Hinton offers Theotokos Connections. The focus of the six-session digital curriculum seeks to build community with participants and help them understand, appreciate, and live into the greater Connection – to Self, to God, to the Church, to Neighbor, to Creation, and to Heritage. It’s created to be easy to use and adaptable to any church setting. Smaller, rural churches will find this curriculum to be especially relevant and flexible. The sessions are designed so you can cover a session over a one-hour time period OR spread out the activities provided to extend sessions over longer time periods and/or multiple weeks. Cost is based on number of users (confirmands and leaders). For more details, to get a free preview, and to order visit www.hintontheotokos.org/curriculum .

Research & Reports: Safe & Healthy Home Repair

Hinton’s work in our community to help improve the quality of life for all is informed by research. Our decades of home repair ministry and focus on housing illustrate this. The documents linked below include research and reports that have been instrumental in the evolution of our Safe & Healthy Home Repair ministry, described in the link for “A Quest to Improve Life in Southern Appalachia” by Hinton CEO & President Dr. Jacqueline Gottlieb.

The 2017 Quality of Life Study, commissioned by Hinton Rural Life Center in 2016, identified seven focus areas for which collaborative efforts could significantly impact our region. These included Children’s Issues, Economic Development, Education, Housing, Substance Misuse, Technology, and Transportation. This study guided the formation of the Council for Collaborative Impact.

Webinar: “Wesley, Racism, and Anti-Slavery”

From the early days of his ministry, Methodism founder John Wesley was a staunch abolitionist. Professing that all humans are made in the image of God, he worked continually to end slavery, offer salvation to all, and spread scriptural holiness. This webinar, led by Dr. Jonathan LeMaster-Smith, explores how Wesley’s anti-slavery writings can inform and inspire our anti-racist work today.


Cultivating Hope: Where You’re Planted

A seven-week study to help us grow inwardly so that we can share the light and love of Christ with our neighbors. Each session of this study has components that focus on loving God, ourselves, and our neighbor as we Cultivate Hope. Love others… Sowing seeds forward – sharing the love of Christ with others (the leaves on the tree) Love self… Tend – you can’t pour from an empty vessel (the trunk of the tree) Love God… Till – preparation – doing the inward work so that we can continue to grow (the roots of the tree)

Sessions: Getting to know you; Why reach out to the community?; Perspective; Poverty Awareness; Asset-based Biblical model; Assets; How to move forward… next steps

This digital resource is free. To order, email missions@hintoncenter.org

2330 Hinton Center Road, Hayesville NC 28904


PO Box 27, Hayesville, NC 28904