Why Have A Staff Retreat

Just yesterday I returned back to Charlotte from our annual staff retreat and planning time for the upcoming year of ministry. This is an extremely profitable time for me as a leader to our staff and church family as we do our best to steward the ministry He has given us for the glory of God.

I’m not sure that everyone in our church family fully understands and appreciates why we do something like this. Occasionally people will think you’re getting away to “have fun” or “goof off.” Or, maybe they view a staff retreat to be some sort of vacation. Of course, if you’re idea of a staff retreat is to find rest and refreshment for your staff then sure, go and have fun. Our focus is a little different. It’s a work trip – an extremely heavy work trip.

The staff retreat is best served when planned out of town.
When you’re focus is to get much accomplished for the upcoming season of ministry it’s best to go to a place where there is little distraction. I look for a place no further than two hours away from our church. This allows us to leave after the Sunday evening service so that we can have all day Monday to work. It also enables us to get back for our mid-week services without rush. At this point, our staff is not very large so we have great flexibility in how we go about our retreat. For example, we rent a cabin large enough to accommodate everyone attending. Staying in the same house allows us to take advantage of every hour we have together – from the moment we get up until the moment we go to bed. Additionally, plan your retreat early enough where you have plenty of time to prepare for the new year.

Consider the staff & leadership that is necessary to achieve your goals.
At this point I involve all pastoral & support staff (including spouses) on the retreat. I find the input that all of them offer from the various ministries they direct are extremely valuable to the overall picture of our ministry. I also like to include at least one of our deacons and his wife in this time as well. If not careful a staff will look at things only from one perspective; however, having lay leadership is helpful to our outlook on each angle of ministry. (On a side note, I am particularly grateful for the servant spirit and sacrifice of the lay leaders whom we ask to go. They take vacation days for which they are not compensated in order to help me and our staff in this capacity.)

Have a pre-determined goal for the retreat.
I have a five step goal. To be honest, when I was the only “staff” back in 2008 when we started, I still used these five steps in my time away planning for the new year of ministry.

1. Evaluate
We spend the first session evaluating the present state of our ministry asking questions such as “Where do we need to improve? What can we do better?” There are 10 categories that we walk through together and evaluate as a team:
(1) First Impressions – guest relations; website; building presentation
(2) Assimilation – follow up; from first time guest to membership
(3) Sunday Worship Services – services structure; ministry volunteers
(4) The Great Commission – soul-winning; baptisms; discipleships
(5) Mid-Week Service – growth groups; Awana; revive
(6) Leadership Training – leadership team; ministry directors, deacons, etc.
(7) Member Care – singles, married, parents, widows, elderly, etc.
(8) Office Administration – staff responsibilities, work needs, efficiency, etc.
(9) Spiritual Growth – of the church body as a whole; where do we need to focus?
(10) Policies & Procedures – staff, ministries, general, etc.

2. Dream
After we have spent several hours evaluating where we are, I begin to share with our staff my goals for the coming year. This year, I shared 10 ministry and spiritual goals that God has put on my heart for 2015. After sharing the goals, we then discuss how to implement them and the necessary steps we need to take to make sure these dreams become reality if they be the will of God.

3. Plan
The first thing we set out to do in our planning stage is plan our church calendar for the following year – going month by month, week by week. After the calendar is set and complete we begin planning for the special events, special days, conferences, publications, media, etc. that will be needed in the next year.

4. Budget
After all the goals are laid out and the calendar pieced together we then examine the finances in relation to our current giving status and new budget year. Once again, going line by line with each expense category making sure that we have researched and prepared a well-planned budget for the next year of ministry.

5. Nourish
Much time is spent in God’s Word through devotions, staff training, and prayer – all for the purpose of nourishing our relationship with one another and with God. Being unified as a staff in harmony with God’s vision for our ministry is extremely important to the fruitfulness of any church.

Have a schedule and resource book put together for your staff.
Upon our staff’s arrival they have a three-ring notebook filled with the necessary materials and resources for the two days of planning. The schedule is something like this:
MONDAY
8am Breakfast
9am Devotions / Staff Training by Pastor
10am Evaluate: where do we need to improve?
12pm Lunch
1pm Evaluate: where do we need to improve?
3pm Dream: my goals for 2015.
6pm Dinner
8pm Miscellaneous Meetings / Fellowship
11pm Devotions by Staff Member
TUESDAY
8am Breakfast
9am Devotions / Staff Training by Pastor
10am Plan: calendar, events, publications, media, ideas.
12pm Lunch
1pm Plan: calendar, events, publications, media, ideas.
3pm Budget: review, evaluate, and prepare 2015 budget lines.
6pm Dinner
8pm Budget: review, evaluate, and prepare 2015 budget lines.
10pm Miscellaneous Meetings / Fellowship
11pm Devotions by Staff Member

There are so many biblical principles as to why this type of retreat is necessary and essential for the effectiveness of church ministry. Jesus’ words in Luke 16:10 is what continually challenges me: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” Be faithful in the details and God will bless the big picture! Even if you as the pastor are the only “staff” the church has, then take a few days away and personally evaluate, dream, plan, and budget for the new year. And if you’re a church member, appreciate the hard work of your staff as they do their best to serve you and your God through the faithful stewardship of their calling and leadership. IMG_0064.JPG

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