We all need a break. Life tends to cling onto us tightly. Our jobs, our finances, our possessions—they can all take control of us from time to time. We begin to lose sight of the things that truly matter in life—the things that God has called us to focus on in our short time on earth—like loving God and loving others.
Your church needs a retreat from the everyday life. Yes, your entire church body—from your eldest elder down to your newest member—needs a way to refocus.
Retreats offer us that opportunity to breathe in a new landscape. They allow us to better disconnect from the intrusions of life (i.e., social media, phone calls, emails, TV, etc.) and find a renewed sense of self within the world. They help us reevaluate our purposes in life and where we currently stand in relationship to those purposes. And retreats can offer your church body the exact same time of respite and renewal.
But chances are, it’s not possible to transport your whole church body off to a remote site for a retreat. Nor should you even try. To best inspire your entire congregation, you’ll want to offer them retreats in distinct groupings. Here are three ways to divvy up your church and how to send them off:
1. Lead Pastor
Perhaps no other person in your church needs to get away than the shepherd of your flock. When he’s not preparing and delivering messages, he’s meeting people in need, offering direction on ministry opportunities, managing the pressures of certain high-maintenance church members, and feeling the stress of financial burdens.
Be sure to give your lead pastor a time of respite. But don’t just offer it to him, make it a priority—maybe even a mandate. Some leaders struggle to see the value of a retreat, or they fear they’ll be leaving too much behind. Make sure your pastor understands the importance of a personal retreat to him, his family, and to your whole church body. And send him off—by himself or with his family…for a week or for a weekend—just make sure he goes.
And consider giving him some guidelines that will make the retreat most profitable. For some leaders, they may just need a new book to read for fun and not for message prep. For others, they may need to sign a promissory note to never check emails. Others may need a list of things to do out in nature. You know your lead pastor and what he needs. Help create some boundaries that will reduce the distractions and realign his body, mind and soul.
2. Leadership Teams
Groups of leaders within your church can also find great value by getting away. It could be your elders, your praise team and musicians, or your Sunday School leaders. Or, you could blend these (and other) groups to create even greater collaboration within the body—getting the hands and feet of God working alongside the knees and elbows of God. Just try to limit these groups to 15-20 participants. You don’t want them so large that they become intimidating to some participants, and not so small that they reduce the value of diverse viewpoints.
And find a venue that can accommodate a group of this size—an off-site venue, that is. It doesn’t count as a retreat if you just meet in the church gymnasium. Leave your property, your city, your state. Get away and you’ll really get to know each other. You’ll start to see the strengths and weaknesses in your leaders, and you’ll give everyone new opportunities to use (or maybe find) their gifts.
3. Small Groups
Finally, give your already-established community groups a new setting for discipleship. You could simply offer all groups a retreat location to reserve and use as needed. Or, you could organize a full-day or weekend event that assembles all your groups in one location for large-group and small group activities. You could identify a resource to explore, identify some discussion questions, or create some team-building exercises for each group.
The most important thing is to get them out of each other’s living rooms, and into a new surrounding. A change of scenery will help them see each other in a new light—both the good and bad sides of their fellow small groupers—and maybe even find out more about themselves in the process.