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Context Guide | Appendix F
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One Day Planning Retreat
Any demographic study will be useless unless the information is put into action. One of the best ways to assure that the important data becomes an integrated part of your congregation’s strategy for mission is to hold a planning retreat. The purpose of this retreat is to use the information from the Context Report, the insight of key congregational leaders and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to design a concrete plan for ministry over the next three to five years. This retreat will not focus on plans internal to the life of the congregation such as pastoral care, stewardship, etc. but rather focus on the congregation’s external mission to the world around it.
NOTE: This retreat assumes that the Core Story has been written and the Vision Statement is current. Please refer to the Context Study Guide and Appendix C if this work has not yet been completed.
Who should be invited? Although congregations have an official governing board, we encourage churches to open this retreat to all individuals in a leadership role within the congregation. Some churches even find it helpful to invite the most recent members of the board who have now completed service. You may also want to invite people who are not currently in leadership roles but who provide consistent leadership to the congregation. The value of having a larger group is the wisdom such a gathering brings. A secondary benefit is the more individuals who participate in the design of the plan the more successful the plan will be. The final responsibility for the plan will depend on your congregation’s governance.
Where should the retreat be held? Many congregations find it helpful to spend a day away from the church building, however this is not essential to a good retreat. If you do choose another location you may consider a camp or conference site, a neighboring congregation’s fellowship hall or a room at your public library, which may be available for community use. The retreat atmosphere should be one which builds community and allows for the best sharing. Be sure and choose a place where people can be comfortable and where food is allowed. Coffee, tea and snacks for breaks tend to make people more relaxed and ready to work. If relying on the hospitality of another, please remember to leave the facility even tidier than you found it!
What will we need for the retreat? Nametags if people will not know one another, Bibles, newsprint, markers, tape which will not damage the paint of the walls, copies of the Core Story and the church’s vision statement for each participant, a few copies of the Context Report.
In addition, the following aspects of ministry should be written on newsprint for the morning session:
1) Worship
2) Community Outreach/Service
3) Evangelism
4) Program more responsive to the needs of the community
5) Program more responsive to the needs of our congregation
6) Becoming more culturally diverse
7) Becoming more generationally diverse
8) Communication strategies (website, other marketing strategies)
Who should lead the retreat? The retreat may be led by either a lay leader or the pastor. It is always appropriate to invite an outside retreat facilitator but one is not necessary. The role of the leader is simply to move the process forward to completion.
You will need to invite someone to offer the opening and closing prayers. Share the following information with the class (the Greek words should be
written on newsprint).
Retreat Design
8:30-9:00 Donuts and Coffee
9:00–9:10 Welcome and Opening Prayer
9:10–10:30 Bible Study: You may select one
of the sessions from Appendix D
10:30–10:45 Coffee Break
10:45-11:30 What are our Priorities?

Dividing the participants into groups of no more than eight. Place the newsprint with the eight aspects of mission where participants can easily see it.

10 minutes

Review the Core Story and Vision Statement.

35 minutes

In light of these, rank the eight aspects of mission in order of
importance for the next three to five years.   

11:30-12:00 Report Time: Each group reports its ranking. If there is considerable difference in the ranking, averaging can be used. However, it is best if the leader can facilitate a conversation with the group that would lead to a consensus ranking among the participants. All of these aspects need to be addressed but which should be worked on first?
12:00-12:45 Lunch
12:45-2:00 Creative Thinking Groups
Divide the participants into three groups. Provide newsprint and markers for each group.
Assign one of the top three priorities for mission(negotiated before lunch in the ranking exercise), to each group. What to do with aspects of mission ranked 4-8 will be discussed at the end of the retreat design.
Ask the groups to write the priority assigned to their group in large letters at the top of the newsprint. Then, ask them to identify as many ideas, strategies or programs that might help address this priority over the next three years. Encourage them to be creative and note ALL ideas, even ones that don’t seem practical. Forbid the use of the phrase “WE CAN’T AFFORD THAT!” List these ideas on newsprint. When the group has completed their work, tape the newsprint to the wall.
2:00-2:15 Coffee Break
2:15-3:00 Reporting and Responding: Each group should have the opportunity to report on its work. Following the reports, participants should walk around the room and as they read a sheet, place check marks beside ideas they think are particularly helpful.
3:00 Next Steps and Closing Prayer: Inform participants that all ideas will be compiled and given to the board/council of the church for next steps. Give them a general idea of when the planning process will be complete and how it will be shared with the congregation. Thank people for participating and close with prayer.
Next Steps
The board/council of the church should decide whether they wish to refine the ministry plan themselves or refer it to a small group for completion. When this decision has been made, the ministry ideas from the retreat are examined/edited and their merit weighed. The goal is to prepare a concrete ministry plan for each of the top three priorities for the next three years. This ministry plan should be approved by the board/council and shared with the congregation (may require a vote in some polities). Note the example of a ministry plan at the end of this design.
At the end of one year, the council/board should evaluate the effectiveness of the first year’s plan. At this meeting (or retreat) they should explore ministry strategies for priorities 4-8 which can be added to the ongoing work at this point. Some churches may wish to add priorities 4-6 to year two and save 7-8 for year three. It is possible to use the same retreat process for future half-day retreats eliminating the Vision Statement/Core Story Exercise and the Bible Study.
Percept recommends that a Context update be done every three years.
Example of a 3-Year Ministry Plan
This example is from a church which ranked evangelism, becoming more culturally diverse and worship as its top three priorities.
1) We will offer a six-week class on lay evangelism during Lent, led by a member of our denomination’s regional staff.
2) Our pastor will meet monthly with those members of the class wishing to deepen their call to discipleship through lay evangelism.
3) Our adult Sunday school class will read and discuss More Ready Than You Realize, by Brian McClaren.
4) We will hold two “each one bring one” celebration events especially focused on introducing unchurched people to our congregation.
Becoming More Culturally Diverse
1) We will request the help of our denomination in obtaining resources for congregations in ethnically changing neighborhoods.
2) We will explore offering our congregation as a site for English as a second language classes.
1) We will begin planning for a less formal Wednesday evening worship opportunity aimed at our changing community. This service may begin as early as the fall of next year.
2) We will recruit our teenagers to help plan music for the new service.