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Running an Annual Planning Retreat for Your Church

Running an Annual Planning Retreat for Your Church

Most churches have meetings and retreats.

And if the people attending those meetings and retreats were honest, they would say they were not as effective as they should be. In fact, you might even hear the phrase “waste of time” tossed around.

At Church Fuel, we teach a proven meeting rhythm that can help your church identify what is most important, then align your meetings toward seeing those results. Here’s the overview:

  • The Annual Planning meeting is a retreat built around building an annual plan for the coming year.
  • The Quarterly Priority meeting involves the same people and it’s where you take the annual plan and come up with 90-day chunks of work to make it happen.
  • The Monthly Focus meeting takes less time but it’s where communication, issues and leadership development happens.
  • The Weekly Meeting is a chance to share success stories, review the numbers and deal with issues.

You don’t really need to understand the intricacies of the entire system to benefit from the annual planning retreat. In fact, no matter how well your church is organized, getting the right people together for a few days to focus on a growth plan for the next year would be a good thing.

In this article, I want to offer some practical suggestions for how to run a good annual plan retreat.

Here are six suggestions.

#1 – Decide what you’re going to accomplish.

Before you reserve a meeting room or ask people about their availability, determine the purpose for your retreat and decide what you want to accomplish.

Many churches try to do too much with a short amount of time, mixing in spiritual development with team building exercises with planning sessions and often resulting in little to show for it other than a good time.

Before you meet, clarify your goals.

  • Are you getting together for spiritual development or planning?
  • Are you meeting in order to solve a problem?
  • Is your goal planning?

Personally, I recommend your annual retreat centering around creating or updating the one-page ministry plan. This one-page template has eight sections, giving you a broad enough agenda to allow room for discussion but clear enough guidelines.

Imagine going home from your annual retreat with all eight boxes filled in and ready to go.

#2 – Invite and involve the right people.

The effectiveness of any meeting largely depends on the people in the room, so making sure you have the right people at the retreat is probably your most important decision.

You need people who think church first, ministry second. That’s why involving the entire staff or everyone with a specific title is often a mistake. The youth pastor shouldn’t drive everything back to youth ministry, but should think about the mission, strategy and goals for the whole church. If you have ministry leaders in the room, make sure they know when to take their ministry leader hat off and put their church leader hat on.

You also need people to understand the value of big-picture planning. If there are people in the meeting who continually draw the conversation back to short-term issues, you’ll struggle to get traction. Make sure everyone knows your goal is to look at the big picture, not solve next week’s problems. An Elder who loves Jesus and teaching the Bible might not be as passionate about crafting an annual plan.

Make sure everyone in the room will add value and prepare people accordingly.

#3 – Do your homework.

Before you get together for your annual retreat, it’s helpful to get some information together in advance. Here are three things you may want to do ahead of time:

  • Take a look at where you are now. Use the Church Health Worksheet to capture as much real data as you can on attendance, giving, influence, etc. Here is a link to the Church Health Worksheet.
  • If there are big events in your church or community, go ahead and gather all of that information. You’ll want to know school schedules and the dates for major holidays and events.
  • Many churches find that a congregational or attender survey is helpful to take into the planning process. You could ask people why they love the church, attend the church or give to the church. You can ask about favorite events or preferences. You can ask for message topic ideas.