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How to Plan a Successful Church Staff Retreat

Why should you host a staff retreat?  As we once heard Mark Batterson say, “Change of pace and change of place, can give you a change of perspective.”  Retreats are an opportunity to lift your people up and give them an opportunity to rest, while inviting them to see the bigger picture, escape their endless to-do lists, and reconnect with each other.  It’s a chance to gather together, as a team, and say, “Let’s remember what this is really about.”

Here are our top tips for planning a successful church staff retreat:

Identify Your Purpose and Define Success

Before the retreat, envision what would make a successful or unsuccessful retreat.  Go deeper than dinners and schedules- what do you want to talk about.  What do you not want to get bogged down talking about? 

Then, think about what success means- do you want to build relationships and help your staff get to know each other on a deeper level?  Do you want them to understand your vision?  Is there an initiative that’s on the horizon that you need buy-in for?  

Develop an Agenda

When you think about defining success, don’t try to go too big- focus on realistic goals.  When you’re in a staff retreat talking about vision, and planning a bunch of stuff at once, it can feel like a huge staff meeting people can’t escape from.  So make sure your success meter is realistic.  And the best way to keep things realistic is by developing an agenda.  As you’re planning, include time for fun, work, and reflection- your staff needs time to bond and to process everything that you’re covering during the working hours.  As you’re picking activities, try to find some that are centered around your values.  

Staff Retreats are Really Good for Big-Picture Vision and Planning

During the weekly stuff, it’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day details.  Staff retreats are a great time to rise above that- to cast vision, without focusing on how you’re going to make it happen.  Pull people out of their day-to-day existence so you can set a course for the direction for the next 2-3 years, without discussing anything tactical.  

Plan Team-Building Activities

Team-building activities don’t have to be elaborate or extreme to be effective.  For example, the Ministry Pass team goes to a National Park every year for a hike together! If you want to do something indoors, you can pick a fun game like Cards Christians Like.  

As you’re planning your team-building activities, remember not to go overboard- you want time for solitude and reflection, but also for doing activities together.  You need a good mix, along with time for intense discussions about what you’re going through as a church and where you want to go.  

Tell Stories of what God is Doing

Sometimes it’s easiest to begin by looking back, so consider starting with a half-hour or so of looking back over the past year.  Talk about baptisms and numbers, but also talk about stories of life change.  Every piece of data has a story, has meaning beyond a number.  These stories will remind your people that what they do makes a difference.  It reminds your overworked staff that, even if their ministry isn’t directly affecting these people, they’re helping make the whole organization work.  Also, take some time to look back at lessons and things to learn from.   

Have Others Help You with the Retreat

A great example of this is the food.  If you can hire a chef or caterer, or someone from your team who has a passion for food, that will be a huge blessing!  Prepping, cooking, and cleaning from meals can take a lot of time, and you need to be at your best, as a leader, for this trip.  The goal is to build into your people, not spend all your time making the details come together.

Bring in a Guest Speaker

Bringing in a new voice for one session of the retreat can be a win for both you and your team.  Having what we call a “Drive-by Guest Speaker” takes some pressure off of you to create a talk or experience that will build into your team, and it can enrich the entire experience.  As the pastor, you want to put together a retreat that’s helpful, but that also makes people want to be a part of it year in and year out.  That they would miss if it didn’t happen.  And having someone new offer fresh insights is a great way to get that momentum going. 

Do you have any plans with your staff for a staff retreat this summer or later this year?  If so, what are you doing that’s special?  Tell us in the comments on our Youtube channel or tweet at us with #hellochurchpod