It’s not really a “Retreat” because we don’t really go anywhere. This year’s entire event took place within a 65-mile radius of Kent, Ohio. And it’s not really designed to disengage from our day-to-day work on campus (as the word “retreat” would seem to suggest), but to help us deeply engage with strategic school year ministry. In the same way, it’s not about taking a break from our busiest season of outreach; on the contrary, it helps us to jump-start all our beginning-of-the-year activities.
But it doesn’t sound as nice to call it “Three Days of Meeting Together.” Even if that’s really what it is. Also, we mix in enough emotional connection and spiritual connection — with a few changes in scenery — to make it feel a little more special than a super-extended Staff Meeting. Still, any time I really stop and think about the name “Staff Retreat” I think of the (fictional) advertising campaign for Ocean Breeze Soap: “It’s like going on an ocean cruise, except there’s no boat, and you don’t actually go anywhere.”
Staff Retreat: Day One
This year, we started by gathering together in a parking lot on the north side of Kent to carpool together to the Lake Erie Bluffs. We planned out some car conversation prompts that helped us to reconnect along the way. And when we got to the Lake, we started out by just being together.
It can be really tempting to jump right into business. Especially with the long list of items to be discussed before a new year of ministry gets started (this year’s list felt longer than ever!). On the principled level, though, we know that we need to ground ourselves in the fact that our work is people work… heart work… soul work. So we choose to start with reveling in our friendship and family dynamics, trusting that the task list will take care of itself more easily, when we’re clicking on the relational level.
At the Lake Erie Bluffs, we climbed an Observation Tower and spotted some eagles soaring in the distance. We walked down to the water’s edge and spent some time skipping stones. We strolled along the shoreline for about a mile and similarly let our conversation wander on the way. It was good to be reminded that we have a good team. A good team of good friends.
A couple of times along the way, we stopped for more structured conversation, all together. We asked each person to share a particular point of excitement for the upcoming school year. And in the process, we started to see some of the ways that God was stirring our hearts in preparation for the new year.
We had a long, lingering lunch at a barbecue place near the Bluffs. Then we slowly started to ease into business. We started with the big picture. Our leadership team shared some of the broad-strokes vision God seems to be stirring for our church this year. Then we had some interaction about the vision. We finished the day by queuing up the schedule for the rest of our retreat before breaking for the day. The first day was by far the most “Retreatish.”
Staff Retreat: Day Two
The second day of the Staff “Retreat” was not very “Retreatish” at all. We met at the H2O Office in downtown Kent. The first hour allowed some time for spiritual connection; otherwise, we just methodically worked our way through our task list. As a team, we covered everything from our Life Group Coaching Structure to our Annual Budget. We talked about Job Descriptions and our Sexual Harassment Policy. We planned out our Retreats throughout the school year and started floating ideas for Spring Break trips.
The day included a relaxed lunch hour together — but otherwise, Day Two was a bit of a grind. We got through a lot of business. We got to do it all as a team. But I think we all went home pretty tired. Funny how a day of sitting in a cushy office chair can do that to a person… but it does.
Staff Retreat: Day Three
The last day of our Staff Retreat was on the campus of Kent State University. We started with some professional group portraits, and then we spent the rest of the day working through details related to all our Welcome Week events. By the end of it all, we’d worked through every item on our team task list — but each of our individual task lists were full.
Our team is going to be plenty busy until Labor Day, but we’re excited to see what God will do in the coming weeks. Please pray with us!