In military terms, retreat is generally a bad word. It can be a sign of defeat or maybe even cowardice. But sometimes, the smartest commanders know that a tactical retreat at the right time can position you for future victory.
There are times when we need to retreat personally. It might be going to the park, Mt. Lemmon or taking a hike for a few hours. We need to change our normal routine and scenery to clear our head and open our heart to God. I try to take personal retreats on a regular basis, and what I’ve learned over the years of this practice is that God often speaks to me in profound ways when I unclutter my life on retreat. Sometimes I get a personal insight or an inspiration that helps me embark on a new path. About twice a year I take a retreat in town to work on future teaching series so I can pray, study and reflect on what God wants to be taught to our church.
There are times when leaders need to retreat. I’m in that season now. I just got back from our annual elder’s retreat. Our elders have the final oversight of our church and I’m accountable to them while also being an elder myself. We use our annual retreat time to do lots of praying. We’ll tackle issues that require more time to process. We take the time to apply God’s truth to policy decisions while embracing and practicing grace.
And, we do something very few elder groups or boards do; we evaluate ourselves as a group and as individuals. I want you to know that our elders are very humble and very vulnerable and transparent. I love our openness to get feedback that is sometimes hard to hear, but always constructive and well intended. I’m so proud to be a part of the Pantano elders. They are the best. We are lead by a very godly, wise and compassionate group of men who truly love Jesus, his Word, Pantano, and our city.
I’m writing this in Prescott at our camp (United Christian Youth Camp) while on retreat with our pastors and directors. We too are doing a personal evaluation as well as how we are doing as a church. We just reviewed our progress in year two of a five-year plan. By the way, we’ve accomplished the majority of the five-year plan in just two years…amazing. There’s more to do for sure, but wow, our team with God’s blessing and leading has accomplished so much. We’ve identified some of the things we’ll be focusing on in 2019 (more on that later).
Here’s the thing that is hard to measure, but so important about retreats – both our elder and staff retreats; these are quality times for strengthening our relationships and in the end, that is more important than strategy or other things associated with leadership. Jesus prayed for our unity knowing that is a spiritual power that can withstand the schemes of the Devil. On a retreat, we share at more personal and deeper levels. We get to eat together, pray together and have fun together more than at any other time… and that’s why I think we have the best church leadership team anywhere. I mean that, and I can quantify that.
We just were recognized as a Best Christian Workplace for the fifth year in a row! Annually our staff takes an extensive survey of 55 questions and we get a detailed report that measures our health. A church that is healthy and thriving scores high in areas like having a fantastic team, uplifting personal growth, a sustainable strategy, work that’s life-giving, having rewarding compensation, healthy communication, having and keeping outstanding talent, inspirational leadership and overall engagement. On a scale of 5, we scored 4.46 (4.0 is considered a “Best Christian Workplace”). There are a lot of factors that have helped us get and stay there over the years, and our annual retreats are one key piece of that.
In our remaining time at the retreat this week, please pray for continued unity and that our pastors and directors would be led by the Holy Spirit to achieve that goal.