Church Officer Retreat


This is my first officer retreat as pastor of this congregation and it’s different from one I would normally do.  There is no working manual, policies, procedure or polity  to walk through.  Although all of that is coming and is important.

This retreat is designed create cohesion, common understanding and core values.  I have created this based on three books.  The first resource is the book The Power of Asset Mapping: How Your Congregation Can Act on Its Gifts by  Luther K. Snow. the second is taken from Stan Ott and his teaching of the Word Share Prayer and  the “with me concept” and Patrick Lencioni and has the concept of creating a thematic goal.  I recommend reading Silos Politics and Turf Wars, by Lencioni and going researching everything Rev. Dr. Ott does in his program ACTS 16:5, Vital Church Initiatives.

The resource I am using is from Eric Law’s work on active listening and mutual invitation.  The goal here it get people to practice listening instead of anticipating what they are going to say next or interrupting.  Listening is a lost skill in our loud society.

As someone who likes things organized and finalized, this retreat is a little tricky for me, because the outcome may be more organic than product.  In other words we still won’t know who is going to make coffee when, serve communion, and greet worshippers on Sunday morning – and I have to be o.k. with that. Because  the focus today is about asking bigger questions:

Why do we exist?  (and the answer can’t be an ethereal answer)

What is God’s will?

What do we all need to do  together to fulfill God’s desire?

This is not a visioning meeting or a mission statement meeting. It’s more meat and potatoes than that.

To give you a little history, before this retreat we had all three officers together for an end of the year meeting and I did an exercise where I asked them to think about what Bible Story they felt we were currently living in.  That outline is below.  The answers were all different but similar nature. They were all focused on being through the wilderness, the storm, the high wall and coming out the other side into hope.

So as we look on this new land?  Who are we and what should we build first and what needs to not be built at all.  That’s what we are about today.

Church Officer Exercise/Discussion

Set Up

  • Dry erase board and markers
  • 1 sheet of Construction Paper or butcher paper and a couple of markers on every table.
  • Round tables of 6 to 8
  • Bibles (at least one at every table)
  • Tape


All church officers need to sit with other church officers. Make sure there is a fair representation of every church officer at every table. – No couples.


  1. Name all of the Bible stories you can think of – brainstorm list and put them on dry erase board. – 5 minutes max. Just to jog their memory.
  2. Ask each group  to now spend some time thinking about what Biblical story do you feel our church is in right now?  What story do you feel best describes our current story? – For example, do you feel we are David fighting Goliath? Do you feel we are in the desert?  Are we facing temptation?  Are we out to sea?  What Biblical story best depicts our current story as a congregation?  There are no right or wrong answers. Work together at your table and come together with an agreed upon story and then write that story on your sheet. – Write it big enough so we can all see it. – If you want to draw a picture of the story you can – Or you can just put the title of the story on the top of the page. – Like “Noah’s Ark.”

(15 minutes)

  1. Now that you have identified your story write underneath your title or picture why you feel this is our current story?  You could say because we are in transition, or because our neighborhood has changed or whatever, but explain why you picked that story.  Write down those reasons. (15 minutes)
  2. Now that you have read the Word and discerned how the Word is speaking to our congregation, write a small prayer in response to your discovery. It could be a prayer of gratitude, a prayer for hope, what is your prayer in light of your story? (10 Minutes)
  3. Now come together as a group and have a spoke-person from each table stand and share the Bible story they chose and why.  Save the prayer.
  4. After each group speaks, have them put the sheet on the wall.
  5. After all the groups have shared ask if they saw common themes in the narratives chosen?  Ask if they are in agreement that this is where the church currently is in their story.  Ask how do they feel about that and what would they like to see differently?
  6. Then have everyone go around and share their prayer.
  7. Invite the group to stand in a circle, hold hands and pass the prayer a long person to person lifting up the prayers they heard.
  8. That’s it.

Here is the Retreat:

Orchard Park Presbyterian Church

Indianapolis, Indiana

January 18, 2014

Church Officer Retreat:

Who:   Elders, Deacons and Trustees

Items Needed:

  • Flip Chart
  • Tables of 8
  • 10-15 half sheets of paper per person in the center of each table
  • Name Tags
  • Masking Tape
  • Thin Markers


  • Word Share Prayer
  • Thematic Goal Handout
  • Objective and Committee structure
  • Mutual Invitation/How to listen

All Elders, Deacons and Trustees should sit apart. Even number of each office.

10:00 a.m. Word Share Prayer,

Introduce the idea of active listening and mutual invitation.

1 Corinthians 1:1-13

10:30 a.m.       Ask the Question, “ What God’s will for this Community?”

Asset Mapping:

From The Power of Asset Mapping: How Your Congregation Can Act on Its Gifts by  Luther K. Snow.

For the next hour we are going to through a process called Asset Mapping.  Asset Mapping is the learning or relearning that the cup is half full.

The easiest, simplest, and fastest way to do this is to use the Reminder List of Basic Assets.

Think about the five types of assets  that we have as individuals and as a community:

Reminder List of Basic Assets

  • .Physical assets, these are things that we see, touch, feel,
  • .Individual assets
  • .Associations
  • .Institutions
  • .Economic assets

Remember, too, that the church is the people, and the people are the church. Your congregation has assets. As an individual, you have assets. Your individual assets are part of the mix. In asset mapping, we talk about both congregational  and individual assets, equally and together.

Each person writes down assets they think of:

Sit in small groups of four to eight people. Hand out the half-sheets of paper and the markers.

Each person will generate a stack of assets by writing on these papers.

Write each asset on a new sheet of paper. (Do not write a list of assets on one sheet.) Write in LARGE BLOCK LETTERS that everyone else can read from a distance.

Write down specific assets in three of the four categories from the reminder list.

Read your assets out loud to everyone in the group you are in.

Tape the papers on the wall, in any order.

You are not trying to summarize the assets of your congregation. Nor can you expect to catalog all of your assets. The idea is to recognize and list assets that might be useful. You will want to dig deeper to remind yourself of assets you may have overlooked. Take two or three rounds, listing several assets in each category.

Thought Provokers

Physical assets

What are two or three physical assets of your congregation?

What are other physical assets of your congregation that you would not have thought of at first? Think creatively! Be specific.

Individual assets

What are one or two things you can do with your hands?

What is something no one in church knows you care about?

Name a few talents and skills of other people at your table.


What groups of people do you connect with in your community? They can be inside or outside of the congregation.


What institutions have something in common with your congregation?

Economic assets

What does your congregation spend money on?

Dig deeper

What signs have you seen lately of God’s grace in the world?


Not “the building” but “100 seats in the sanctuary.”


The most useful assets are often the weirdest or funniest ones.

2. Connect the Dots

Spend up to 20 minutes on this.

Development is creating a new link between two or more existing assets.

Forming Action Ideas from Assets

Gather with your group by the wall and look over your assets.

Think about God’s will for your congregation, the gifts God has given you, and the actions you can take by using these gifts. As a group, brainstorm actions that connect two or more of these assets to accomplish God’s will.

Contributing to Your Team

Cluster the sheets of paper with the assets you have connected.

Tell the others in your group what action you are thinking of.

Other people can add assets to your cluster or start a new cluster. As you are clustering assets, talk to each other about the actions you might develop.

Naming Actions

You want to end up with a few (two to six) clusters of assets representing particular actions you’ve discovered through brainstorming. Give each action a short name. Write that name down on another sheet and post it with the asset cluster.

Action 1—

cluster of assets

Action 2—

cluster of assets

Action 3—

cluster of assets

DO NOT put assets into categories based on similarity.

It is a common instinct to find likeness, but it can stop you from acting.

DO connect diverse assets to brainstorm ACTIONS.

Think about actions like:

  • Project
  • Event
  • Performance
  • Campaign
  • Protest
  • Celebration
  • Demonstration
  • Making, growing, or fixing things

As you work together, feel free to write down more assets.

The same asset can be used more than once. Just write it down again on another sheet of paper.

3. Vote with Your Feet

This should take less than 10 minutes.

Follow Your Heart

Listen to each group report on the actions they have discovered through brainstorming.

Decide which of these actions you would most like to take part in yourself.

Go stand next to that action.

You get an instant work plan

Now look around. What do you notice?

Learning by Doing

Questions to Consider and Discuss

Spend about 10 minutes on this.


Looking around the room at people standing by the assets clustered into actions on the wall, what do you observe?

Did anything surprise you in the experience?

Sensing the power of faith in community

How did it feel to write down your assets?

How did it feel to connect the dots?

How did it feel when you voted with your feet?

Recognizing Results

When you connected the dots, what kinds of actions emerged?

Taken together, what would these actions accomplish?

What have you accomplished already?

Thinking about open-sum dynamics

Copyright © 2004 by The Alban Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

12:00 Lunch

Discussion Over Lunch – new people at tables

The next two things we are going to accomplish in the next two hours, is based on the gifts we have been given and the places where we see God working the most, we are going to create a thematic goal for the year.

A Thematic Goal is a rallying cry. It’s a focus that we all share. It’s a goal that is the front end of every group that meets and is addressed at every meeting.  The thematic goal asks the question:

What is important right now?

It’s singular, qualitative, temporary, and share across leadership teams.

The point is not give us a cheer, it’s to give us a focus.

If we could accomplish only one thing during the next x months what would be? 

 What must be true x months from now for us to be able to look back and say we have had a good period?

Lets try to answer that based on our assets.

Thematic Goal Exercise

1. Ask every member of the team to individually answer this question: “What is the single most

important thing that we must get done this period in order for us to succeed?”

Team members write their responses down privately. It is important that the participants write

out their answers so that their ideas are not biased by what their peers may have said before

them. Estimate a timeframe for the Thematic Goal. Since the timeframe for varies depending on the

situation choose one as a starting point. We usually begin with 6 or 9 months.

l Answer some supplemental questions. The following phrases may help clarify your Thematic


a. “If we don’t accomplish ________________, we will have failed.”

b. “If we do not ___________________, our organization will suffer significant risk.”

c. “What is the most important thing we need to accomplish this period?”

Engage in debate over the goal. Team members may push back and suggest that there are many other things that have to get done and that the organization “can’t afford to focus on just thing.” When hearing this objection, keep in mind the phrase, “If everything is important, than nothing is.”

2. Once everyone has committed to something on paper, go around the table and ask each person what they listed. Capture each person’s suggested Thematic Goal on a flip chart or white board. To ensure everyone does not hold back, we suggest that the leader of the team go last. Be sure to write every unique goal down and ask any clarifying questions when necessary. Indicate which goals have been suggested by multiple team members.

3. Have the team review the list.

4. Use the following questions to determine which suggested goals might be better categorized as

a Standard Operating Objectives.

“Is this something that is always important?”; “when are you not worried about that?”; “how is that different than last period, or next period, or next year?”

Tell the group, “remember a Thematic Goal is in place only for a specific period of time, and then it goes away. If it is something that is always important, and that you always worry about,

it’s more likely than not a Standard Operating Objective.”

5. Ask the team to again review the list and try to identify which goal really rises to the top as the most important.

6. If there are still some discrepancies, ask team members to take 60 seconds to convince the

team why their suggested goal is most important.

7. Ask the team to consider which of the goals on the list are truly candidates for the Thematic Goal, and which may simply be a Defining Objective of that goal.

8. Have the team put a stake in the ground and choose one for the Thematic Goal.

If the group is stuck, it may be appropriate at this point to push the discussion forward

(sometimes discussing the Defining Objectives helps to further clarify the Thematic Goal or to even re-frame it)

9. Write this Thematic Goal in a box at the top of a new Flip Chart.

Who Must Do What?

Based on the thematic goal, drawn from the Assets, what role should elders, deacons and trustees play to make that goal happen. Not based on committee structure – based on assets.

To be continued and individual meetings….



Word Working uses “respectful communication guidelines” and “mutual invitation” as ways to help ensure an

open and safe place for the Word to work. Respectful Communications Guidelines

R = take RESPONSIBILITY for what you say and feel without blaming others

E = use EMPATHETIC listening

S = be SENSITIVE to differences in communication styles

P = PONDER what you hear and feel before you speak

E = EXAMINE your own assumptions and perceptions


T = TRUST ambiguity because we are not here to debate who is right or wrong

Participants are asked to agree to uphold these guidelines.

Mutual Invitation Method

Mutual Invitation is employed to ensure that each person in the group is invited by name

to share in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

1. The leader clarifies what the group members are invited to share.

2. The leader gives guidelines about the use of time.

3. The leader may share first or may invite another person by name to share.

4. Whom you invite does not need to be the person next to you.

5. After the person has spoken, that person is given the privilege to invite another

to share.

6. If the person invited chooses not to share, the person may simply say “pass”

and proceed to invite another to share.

7. The process will continue until everyone has been invited to speak.

8. At that time any person who passed will be invited again to share. Persons are

still free to pass.

9. The main activity of the group is to listen.


The Invitation Method is a way to include all people in the conversation ina very respectful atmosphere. While each person is speaking, the others listen. No one may interrupt the speaker nor jump in to speak without being invited by name. In this method, no one has more authority than anyone else – each person is invited to share, and after sharing that person has the privilege to invite who will share next.

Eric H. F. Law, 1992


READ:  Colossians 3:12-17 (Body Life)

12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. NIV

REFLECT:  Read this passage two or three times.  What is the overall spirit of what the Apostle Paul is saying?

Of the many actions we are encouraged to do in our life together as members of the Body of Christ, what are the one or two actions that speak most powerfully to you personally, today?

RESPOND:  How will you apply one insight from this text to your own life?



REQUEST:  Jot down prayer requests that you and others may have.


Thematic Goal Exercise, Patrick Lencioni: Politics, Silos and Turf Wars

“What is the single most important thing that we must get done this period in order for us to succeed?”

a. “If we don’t accomplish ________________, we will have failed.”

b. “If we do not ___________________, our organization will suffer significant risk.”

c. “What is the most important thing we need to accomplish this period?”

What Role Should Elders Play in Implementing this Goal?

Create objectives

What Role Should Deacons Play in Implementing this Goal

Create objectives

What Role Should Trustees Play in Implementing this Goal

Create objectives

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