Tag Archive: soul care

Planning a staff retreat (sans strategy)

This week our church’s ministerial staff will be on retreat. Once a year we take two and half days away. While we’re there on this annual outing, here’s what we don’t do:

  • Plot the next year’s activity calendar
  • Wordsmith our church’s mission statement
  • Review ministry opportunities and determine the wins/losses of our efforts

Instead, we strive to: Connect to God and each other.

That’s it. It’s a simple purpose, and it’s easy to plan. When I am planning each time-slot, all I ask is – will this time help our staff connect to God and each other?

I’ve written before about why strategy conversations are critical to church staffs. I also do my share of calendar planning, wordsmithing strategies, and reviewing a lot of our staff’s activities. But at this retreat, I think it’s best to pull away from that, both literally and figuratively.

Here’s what we do include in the retreat:

  • Teaching from our pastor
  • An outside guest who can bless and encourage our souls through teaching
  • Worship led by an outside leader, so every staff member can engage as a worshipper (and not a leader of worship)
  • Solitude
  • Suggested soul-care exercises
  • Late-night World Series watching. Due to the time of year, usually a whole bunch of people gather around the common room’s TV to watch a game.
  • Recreation (Wiffle ball tends to be our favorite) I highly encourage everyone to participate in recreation time… even if they don’t play, I want them there to laugh and encourage people (or make fun of others’ lack of athleticism).
  • A whole lot of eating…the best fellowship usually occurs during our meals together.

The pace is slow. I want to suspend our rushed lives, even for two days. There’s margin left in the agenda so our staff have more time to get to know each other deeper, and so they have adequate times to take their spiritual disciplines to a deeper level.

Does your staff have time to pull away and just be? A time when your focus is about relationships with God and each other?

Whether a retreat or half day away from the office, you’ll find significant value in unplugging from the ministry work routine, and retreating.

When you have a large group, it’s hard to satisfy everyone’s desire. You’ll hear lots of opinions about what should and shouldn’t have been included in a retreat. But here’s what I’ve determined about this retreat… they may not love everything that’s planned, but it’s going to be hard for them to not have connected with God and others while away. And that makes it worth it.

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Wins and Mistakes in Planning Sabbaticals

If you’re lucky enough to earn a sabbatical, you want to make sure you take advantage of it. I’ve taken a sabbatical, but most of my opinions about them have been formed by talking to other ministers who came back from theirs and realized it wasn’t maximized, or was used the wrong way.

As a free resource, you can view Brentwood Baptist’s documents related to sabbaticals, including these forms: Educational Assistance and Sabbatical Overview, Sabbatical Request, Sabbatical Proposal, and Sabbatical Report on my resources page.

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Ministers and Mourning


If you’ve been doing ministry long, it’s happened.

It’ll be months after a friend’s death, and you’ll wake up one day extremely sad. The kind of sad most people typically feel during days 1-3 after losing someone they care about.

But in days 1-3 after your friend’s death, you weren’t mourning – you were ministering.

While I and others applaud transparency from our ministers when they struggle, many people expect ministers to pastor them through their grief. Pastors are expected to be controlled emotionally. We need them to be “the okay one” in the chaos of loss.

As ministers, we’re not alone in this. Jesus had to hurry through His own grief for the sake of ministry.

Matthew 14 tells us about John the Baptist’s beheading, and how his disciples went and reported it to Jesus afterward.  Jesus was sad, and he “withdrew to be alone.”  He went to mourn. But his mourning was short-lived, and it soon became time for ministry. The crowds followed him, and as he stepped ashore, he “saw them, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick.”

Jesus is God, but I wonder if he wished for more time to mourn John.

You and me, we’re not God. We need time to mourn when we bury our friends and family. We might plan the funeral or preach at the service, or we may sing a song or hold a distraught loved one. But in addition to those things, we must also mourn.

I’m a realist, and I understand that we may not be able to fully engage our own mourning as we minister. But if we’re going to be emotionally healthy in the long-term (so we can minister to more people, longer), we must find room for our grief.

Professionals tell us that people grieve differently, but it’s clear all will experience it. When you do, give yourself permission to grieve – even if your grieving methodology doesn’t meet the expectations of others.

Don’t wait months to fully grieve. Take a day off after a funeral. Talk to a counselor. (I’ve argued for this before, through a previous guest post you can read here.) Go do whatever it is you need to do to vent and deal with the stress.

Ministers often try to put their “grieving” off until later, but that’s not healthy, and not sustainable in a career of ministry.


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