An Agenda for a Visioning Retreat

LeadersOur elders and ministers recently scheduled a 7-hour retreat to consider some of the big-picture church issues. It went well, and so I’d thought I’d share an only-slightly edited version of our agenda, in hopes that other elderships might profit from our experience.

I think it’s in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that Stephen Covey points out that we often fail to take the time to consider “second quadrant” issues, that is, issues that are important but not urgent. After all, the urgent issues are, well, urgent and so tend to dominate the agenda. But the seemingly non-urgent issues will soon enough become urgent if we ignore them–by which time they’ll be awfully hard to deal with! And so it’s essential that leadership teams take time to think about these kinds of things.

Here’s the agenda in broad outline–

  • Vision
  • Organization
  • Community
  • Shepherding
  • Small groups
  • Marriage/parenting
  • Recovery
  • Worship

Here’s the “annotated” version from which the discussion leaders led. The elders each took one or two topics. Now, our ministers are very capable of leading any of these discussions, but there’s a valuable dynamic in the elders taking the lead.

Although the elders led the discussion, the agenda reflects input from all the elders and ministers.

[I'm sorry for the absence of indents. I don't know how to do those in HTML. Suggestions would be most welcome.]

Vision – a refresher on what we talked about the last time

I. Missionality

i. Reggie McNeal, The Present Future: review principles. New staff and elders need to have read.

ii. How we can be missional at all age group levels?

iii. The impact of mission on marketing the church (or getting away from the mistakes of the Church Growth model)

1. Old thinking: package the church like a product to be sold to a target audience.

a. Marketing, by its nature, tends to be dishonest, as we tend to emphasize the parts that “sell” and de-emphasize the hard part. Eventually, we begin to believe our own marketing material and forget the hard stuff altogether.

b. Jesus taught both parts

2. New thinking: be authentic.

a. Authenticity means being completely transparent and honest about who you are and what joining means

b. Replace “goods and services” mentality with commitment to a shared vision and mission

c. From p. 18: “The appropriate response to the emerging world is a rebooting of the mission, a radical obedience to an ancient command, a loss of self rather than self-preoccupation, concern about service and sacrifice rather than concern about style.”

d. P. 26: “Churches that understand the realities of the present future are shifting the target of ministry efforts from church activity to community transformation.”

II. Vision

i. What does God want UCC to be like 20 years from now?

ii. It’s important to take enough time now and again to imagine where God wants us to go. We get caught up in the here and now. Having “vision” is not about knowing buzzwords and cobbling slogans. It’s the church-together having a goal they are working on together. “Vision” is what we see in our mind’s eye as what we’re working toward. From vision thus flow strategies and organization.

III. Organization

i. The Simple Church

a. What’s the lesson?

1. I would think the lesson is doing as much as possible through small groups and classes and eliminating what we can

b. How does it apply to UCC?

1. What UCC activities can be shifted this way? Or are we done?

2. What about new initiatives?

IV. Community

i. Before the church can be effectively missional, it must be a community

ii. How do we build community?

1. Small groups

2. Classes

3. How else?

iii. Where is are we weakest in this regard?

1. Singles

2. Newlyweds

iv. How are we going to deal with the Simple Church idea?

V. Shepherding

i. Shepherding to what end?

ii. Shepherding in a missional way.

iii. Keeping shepherding simple

iv. Moving toward a shepherding model

VI. Small groups

i. [We must be very careful not to usurp the committee's job at this meeting]

ii. Making small groups missional

iii. ADOPT (program for locating community services the small groups can help with)

iv. Whether/How do college, teen, and children’s ministries fit in?

v. Elder roles

vi. Working within the small groups

VII. Marriage/parenting

i. How do we intentionally train our members?

ii. Can this be done via classes and small groups only?

iii. Recovery

a. How can we help the divorced and addicted within the Simple Church model?

b. Can this be done via classes and small groups?

c. When?

d. How?

VIII. Worship

i. When will we need a bigger auditorium?

ii. Should we first go to a third service? When?

iii. Worship styles

a. If we are truly, honest-to-God missional, then what styles/methods would best allow new members to express their hearts toward God? [as opposed to: "what kind of worship sells?"]

b. Is the present style good enough? We are growing now, and so is there any need to modify our present style? Does the present style allow our members to express their hearts to God as well as possible–on the whole?

c. As new members join us, what musical styles best allow them to be open-hearted to God?

We needed every minute of the seven hours (which included a working lunch). We decided that we should meet again in October to follow up and make sure we are honoring the plans made.

It looks like we’re headed toward a two- or three-times a year discipline, which seems about right.

The emphasis on The Present Future and The Simple Church came from the preceding retreat, which discussed these two books. Obviously, we’ve not bought entirely into either book, but both books have some powerful lessons that bear thoughtful, extended conversation.

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