In Parts 1 & 2 I wrote about two of the three priorities for a Staff Retreat; namely, Prayer and Team Building. (If you have not read them yet, go to links here for Part 1 and Part 2). This final part focuses on the primary purpose of the retreat where the pastoral staff huddle down together to look at what needs to be done to strengthen the church to be healthier and to do better.
This may include planning, but the retreat is more than just about planning programmes for the coming year. It is more about the big-picture; where the church is at, where it is going and what needs to be done to get there. It involves looking at everything and anything that will help the pastoral team accomplish that. I will simply call it Envisioning.
I am using the term rather loosely here. It is not limited to crafting a vision statement. Of course, if a church does not have one, then this is among the very first things the pastoral team should pray and work on. If it already has a vision but requires a serious relook or just a bit tweaking, then an appropriate amount of time should be given to do what is needed at the Retreat.
Areas of Focus
The area of focus at each retreat will understandably be different. It depends on what the Senior Pastor discerns to be the need of the church during this season of its journey. Below are examples of what some of these needs might be:
- Drafting Vision and/or Mission Statements
- Determining Core Values
- Setting 5-year Goals
- Establishing Discipleship and Leadership Development Processes
- How to Retain Visitors and Close the Back Door
- Removing Growth Obstacles and Establishing Growth Strategies
- Developing Church Health
- Developing Church Culture
- Carrying Out Change
From my experience there is time for the team to deal with only one or two areas at any one retreat. This is because we want to be thorough, and secondly, because of the method employed for this kind of an exercise.
The SP is expected to lead in the sessions, but the outcome should be a team effort. That means, the sessions are to be conducted in a way that allows for every team member to participate. A lot of time is to be given to collective brainstorming, discussion and sharing of opinions.
Putting up the ideas and insights coming from the different members with the use of “post it”, white board, flip chart and/or LCD projection is indispensable to aid clarity and to avoid misunderstanding.
In order to maximise the time at the retreat the SP should clue-in the team with the agenda. Some of the staff may be assigned to do some pre-retreat research and questions may be given to the team to guide their personal pre-retreat reflection. This will give everyone time to think, be better prepared and have more useful contributions to make at the Retreat.
The last thing any pastoral team would want is to go away from a retreat not really knowing what they have done or accomplished.
The Staff Retreat must end with clear conclusions, deliberate action steps for those areas where there is agreement, and outstanding matters noted for further discussion back in the office (perhaps, at the weekly pastoral staff meeting).
Within a week, preferably before the next pastoral staff meeting, the SP should have sent out a summary report of the Staff Retreat encapsulating the conclusions, action steps and outstanding matters. This document is to be the basis for further deliberations at both the pastoral and church leadership (eg. Church Board) levels until agreement is achieved. Following this the decisions and strategies are then cascaded to the members of the church for united action.
(If your church does not a team of pastoral staff, my recommendations for a Staff Retreat may be applied for a Church Leaders Retreat such as the Eldership team or Church Board.)