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Plan a retreat for your ministry staff

By Andrew J. Schleicher

Editor’s Note: Chrck out our Plan for Summer landing page for more great ideas for retreats and summer activities.

Does your ministry staff take time away from the church building to refocus and re-energize? Perhaps it is time for everyone to get away on a staff retreat.

There are different types of retreats, and each provides benefits. The important part is to get out of the building and be together.

People who serve on multi-person staffs likely have regular meetings; nevertheless, they benefit from getting away together. Too often, staff focus on their individual areas of ministry and don't take the time to build relationships or prepare a congregation-wide focus for the year ahead.

Before you head to your retreat, know your purpose. Keep that in mind so you walk away from the time together knowing you have succeeded in your plan.

Types of Retreats

Reflection and recreation
Also known as play and pray, a retreat of this type can build team relationships, ease stress and include time to grow spiritually together. It is best done at a retreat center where there are opportunities for recreation as well as quiet space for prayer and reflection.

Limit how much you structure the time. The retreat may be for one to two days. It is a great way to help prevent church leader burnout.

The planning retreat
During a planning retreat, the ministry staff can look ahead for a year or more, identifying areas of emphasis and how the various areas may work together to move the congregation forward. Being away often helps with the brainstorming process.

It is a good idea to limit the time to one day without staying overnight so you stay focused and alert. If you may desire to extend the retreat by incorporating times of prayer and recreation, remember to keep planning as the main purpose.

Personal and professional growth
A growth retreat may bring in an outside leader to work with your team on a specific need. The focus may be individual spiritual growth or developing one's speaking abilities, team building or preparing for a congregational focus, such as reaching out to a changing community.

No matter what type of retreat, don't leave your preparation to the last minute. Here are some tips to help:

1. Consider whom to invite. This will vary based on the purpose, but be sure you make selections intentionally so people will understand if they are not invited.

2. Know your budget. Any staff retreat should enhance your congregation's ministry. Money should come from a leadership-development line item. If you don't feel that you have sufficient money this year, plan to include more in next year's budget.

3. Find a location that meets your needs. Make sure the location is not too close to the community in which you work. Hotels are not often the best place, but they may work if they provide places to relax. Retreat centers often work best for this reason. Many United Methodist camps and retreat centers will provide a good location at a reasonable price. Be sure to check out the site in advance to make sure the atmosphere is what you're seeking.

4. Promote the event to your team so they, too, feel excited and energized for the time together. Have your team members get the retreat on their calendars well in advance in order not to schedule any other church or personal activities during that time.

5. Follow up after the event. Remind people of what the group agreed to during the retreat and ensure that your team members complete items assigned to them.If questions remain, make sure you find time to follow up on them and don't lose the energy gained from your time away.

Take at least one retreat a year, preferably two. Make at least one a planning retreat.

Plan well and have fun doing it.

Andrew J. Schleicher is a project coordinator at United Methodist Communications