April 7, 2022

Lessons from a Retreat – Part 2

In Part 1 we reviewed where to have the retreat and the importance of setting the proper tone with meaningful passages from scripture. In Part 2, we’ll look at some essential components to create a successful experience.

First, begin with making agreements with each other for the day. As with everything that will follow, you can create whatever makes sense to you; you are also welcome to use what is provided here.

Essential Agreements for Meetings:

I always state the request and ask people to audibly answer yes. This immediately creates trust and allows people to share more deeply than they otherwise would.

After confidentiality, my “Big Five” are as follows.

1) Be. Here. Now.
a) Be fully present. This is as simple and as difficult as it sounds.

2) Trust the process.
a) As I say, “it’s going to get messier before it gets neater.”

3) Details matter.
a) If you’re fully present, you’ll be able to dive deep into the details, which is where the gold is usually found.

4) Support your team.
a) The Vestry is your team. Have each other’s backs. You can disagree. But once a decision is made, everyone needs to board the train.

5) Never quit.
a) When things seem the darkest is when you’re usually closet to having a breakthrough. You’ll never know what’s possible unless you keep going.


By engaging a brief conversation about what constitutes communication, you give the Vestry an opportunity to “get their reps in” or said another way, to practice what they’re going to preach.

In practice:

  • Pause - what are you bringing into the conversation?
  • Be fully present – don’t think about past or the future.
  • Listen - no pre-planned outcome.
  • Pause - silence between exchanges is good.
  • Speak - from your point of view.

This means that during the retreat, all Vestry members will be expected to practice the communication skills as outlined above.


Again, a brief conversation about leadership allows the Vestry to discuss how they perceive their roles as leaders of the parish. Here are three components to consider, and you can add to these as you see fit.

What do good leaders do?

  • They create a powerful vision that inspires.
  • They share that vision with their team, informing them that everyone has an essential role to play in fulfilling the vision.
  • They give their team the parameters within which to operate, and then give them the space to work.


This is the heart of the retreat. There are as many ways to create a vision statement as there are consultants that guide them. How you get to the statement does not matter. What matters is that you get there.

Here’s one way to approach the exercise.

Distinguish mission from vision.

  • A mission is usually tied to a strategic plan, and often spans three to five years. It defines what you do and your specific objectives to achieve your goals.
  • A vision is bigger than any one person. It will not be fulfilled in your lifetime. It is inspiring and calls people into the future. It gives life to the parish community and fills people with joy and purpose. Ideally, it is no longer than a few sentences. It may only be one sentence.

That said, most people can’t get their heads around something so vast, so ask Vestry members to think five years in the future. Here are some questions to get people thinking about your church. If you have a Vestry of 12-15 people, small groups of 4 – 5 are perfect for this step.

  • What does it look like?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What does it sound like?
  • What are others saying about it?
  • What difference are we making?
  • How are people transformed?
  • How is that transformation being lived out?

You may find it helpful to have people spread out and write on giant Post-It Notes on the wall. Or use butcher paper on a table. The most important thing is to dream, and to dream big. What are you truly committed to having for your parish community and for those whom you serve?

Write several draft statements. Don’t try to “get it right.” Write from the heart. Connect to your emotions. Use starter statements such as: “We envision a church where…” OR “The vision of YOUR CHURCH is…”

Then reconvene, summarize the visioning work you did, and present your draft statements. Play with them. Combine them, take parts from one and parts from another. If you can walk out of the retreat with 2 – 3 draft statements to think about and pray about, you’ve done great work. Connect within a week, and narrow your choice to one. And through the entire process, be constant in prayer. You cannot go wrong.