3 Ways To Make Your Church Staff Retreats More Effective


Our team here at Vanderbloemen is gearing up for one of our favorite times of the year – our annual Intensive. It’s basically a staff retreat, except we stay here at our offices. There is so much value in getting out of our daily work to focus together on the big picture and upcoming challenges. It’s refreshing, it’s re-focusing, and it’s great for team bonding.

But it’s also easy for a church staff retreat to be lame. Too often, when one thinks of staff retreats, one thinks of long meetings or awkward ice-breaking games. Or maybe your staff doesn’t do an annual retreat. If not, I’d encourage you to rectify that as soon as possible. I once heard that a staff that doesn’t go on retreats is like a sports team that never huddles or doesn't have a training camp.

Instead of doing the same boring or awkward things you may do at every retreat, focus on these three areas to make your staff retreats as effective as possible.

1. Plan with staff culture in mind.

A retreat or intensive can do wonders for your team culture. But don’t just allot time for “fellowshipping” and leave it at that. Focus specifically on your team’s core values and plan activities that put flesh on those values. (Or, if your staff doesn’t have established core values yet, a retreat is the perfect time to choose those!) 

For example, one of our team’s core values is Constant Improvement, so we spend a chunk of time during our intensive brainstorming about ways we can improve the ways we serve our clients, our candidates, and our readers. Another one of our values is Contagious Fun, so we usually plan a fun dinner together – complete with a few surprises and tiny gifts throughout the day.

2. Harness collective brainpower.

Some people think a staff retreat should solely be for getting away and relaxing together. And while there can certainly be benefit to that, our team here at Vanderbloemen doesn’t treat our intensive this way. Rather, our time together is all about harnessing our collective brainpower.

Another one of our team’s core values is Solution-Side Living. So during our intensive, we spend a good amount of time thinking about potential upcoming challenges and how to solve them. Is your staff currently facing any challenges? Are there are problems that need to be solved? Your church staff retreat is the ideal time to have “mindhive,” blue-sky-thinking sessions where everyone can step back, look at the big picture, and think of solutions and improvements.

3. Focus on vision & mission alignment.

Staff retreats are vital for aligned vision, period. A team retreat is an ideal time for vision casting, or, if you’re team has drifting from their mission, re-directing everyone back to your sole vision and mission.

Also, if you need to make any changes in your vision or on your church staff, a retreat is a good time to begin that process. Leading change is always a challenge, but starting with everyone on the staff on the same page is vitally important. Introduce the coming change to the staff, let them in on the reasons behind it, get their input, and develop a game plan together for implementing it.

Don’t settle for old-fashioned get-to-know-you games or merely relaxing when planning your staff retreats. You’ll discover that your team retreats can be wildly beneficial for your church staff and ultimately your church growth if you focus on these three areas and plan your retreats around them.