Planning a Vision Retreat

Written by Bill Whitt
July 31, 2023

A good retreat focuses both on solidifying the team and clarifying the vision. Using the imagery of a journey can help to simplify an otherwise complex topic.

The work of church renewal hinges on ministry leaders’ clarity about the church’s mission and their role in helping to accomplish it. Summer is the perfect season to plan a retreat that allows your team to step outside of the day-to-day logistics of ministry and to look at the big picture.

  • A good retreat focuses both on solidifying the team and clarifying the vision. Last week, I shared ideas about how to help leaders learn more about one another in order to solidify the team. This week, I want to share some ideas about how to help them learn more about the church’s mission in order to gain clarity around the vision.

I think of church’s vision statements in these simple terms: Where are we going, and how do we get there? Using the imagery of a journey can help to simplify an otherwise complex topic. I’ll expand it into five ideas below:

Five Ideas to Help Clarify the Vision
 Idea 1: How we got here
  • To truly understand why your church is the way it is today, your team members need to understand the journey that brought it this far. Context is key. Without it, your team may miss crucial dynamics at work under the surface.
  • Because your leadership team may include newly hired staff members or newly elected church office bearers, reviewing your church’s history during a retreat is usually a great way to start.
 Idea 2: Where we are
  • You are a totally unique person with particular strengths and weaknesses. Your church is too! When we learn to embrace what makes us unique, we can honor what God is doing in us and through us.
  • A great way for your team to think about what makes your church unique is to do a S.W.O.T. analysis. This would include brainstorming about the particular Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats your church is facing in your specific context at this moment in time.
Idea 3: Where we are going
  • Without a clear and compelling picture of a better future, people will almost always choose to go back to the comfort of the past by default. Have you painted a vivid picture of where you believe God is calling your church?
  • A one- or two-day retreat is not the time to formulate and articulate a brand-new vision. (Churches spend two years with the Center for Church Renewal on a renewal journey!) However, a brief retreat is the perfect place to review the existing mission/vision that the church has already adopted.
Idea 4: How we’re going to get there
  • When you go on vacation, knowing your destination is not enough. If you do not have good maps to show the way, you will never get where you hope to go.
  • Similarly, a vision without a strategy is just a dream. Increasingly churches need to be nimble with strategies, as ministry methodology needs to be evaluated and updated yearly… if not more frequently! A leadership retreat is the ideal place for this refinement to happen.
Idea 5: The Role each person plays
  • You now have the destination and the map to show the way there. Finally, we need to get the right people in the car in the right seats.
  • With the vision and strategy now clarified, the final step is to make sure everyone can clearly see how their role is tied to the church’s success. Employees want more than a paycheck these days. They want to know their work matters. The same goes for volunteer leaders, who want to do more than busywork. Each person should leave, enthusiastic about the difference they can make in a ministry they deeply care about!

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