For some, the phrase “staff retreat” conjures up images of a group going to a great location, but being locked up for hours looking through minutia of the calendar, or focused on a particular department’s health or strategies. Even the word itself has some negative connotations with “retreat” commonly known as falling back in some type of defeat. For our staff my hope is anything but what I’ve described above. My prayer is we are able to get away to the hillside if you will, to breathe, to reflect; yes, to rest.
There are three main goals I have for our staff retreats:
- Relationships – As a church ministry staff we do not work one day a week, Sundays, as many like to joke. Another notion is that we chat and drink coffee all day when we are in the office. The reality is, I share office space with a group where it is common for us pass each other in the halls as we are about the work. I actually am sad to confess this, but it is true. There is a hustle to ministry, and much of that work is focused with energy to those we serve and are trying to reach. The work is not focused inward, on the team. To have a time to focus only on our relationships as a team is not only a challenge, but a blessing and precious commodity when we get it. At our retreats, how do we focus on relationships? Time – I designate a large chunk of the schedule for unstructured, non-agenda driven time with one another. Sometimes an activity is planned, but often not – and it yields time to connect in ways I could not have planned in the first place. We recently experienced ample time to talk at our meals, and a staff member described this aspect as such a good, laughter filled time of connection.
2. Rest – Another objective is to create space, margin, time to rest. I will do a future post on some of my favorite locations for retreats. But the location is important. Get away, make it feel like a break. Our recent retreat to Quartz Mountain State Park was perfect in that it was far enough of a drive to feel a disconnect, but not too far to be road weary. And the main box it checked was the scenery. If you have not been to this gem in Southwest Oklahoma, plan a day trip. Rest removes us from the constant drum beat, it refreshes the soul. It calibrates us to understand that we are not so important that we cannot rest. It reminds us of how small we are and how big God is when we see and breathe in His creation. Jesus frequently stepped aside, alone or with the disciples, to talk to the Father. He implored His disciples to get to a solitary place and rest. “And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)” Mark 6:31 NASB/biblegateway
3. Responsibility – One thing about rest though, it seems sweeter when you feel like you have or are accomplishing something. As I plan the agenda, I like to focus on one thing that will be a takeaway of completion. What is our task? What are we here to do? This particular retreat’s task was to introduce and solidify our 2019 theme and settle the action steps for the first half of the year. Confession: did we walk through a calendar? Yes. We do want to insure that all have had opportunity to hear the “big pieces” ahead and to be able to avoid overlap or ministry conflicts with one another. But, I did try to limit this time and held it off for one of the final meeting times.
Bottom line, I walked away from this retreat with a deepened friendship with our staff. We prayed, we laughed, we were stirred and challenged. We tackled a task together. I sat by myself and reflected on the Lord; I wandered about a bit in His incredible handiwork. Thank you God.