It Was A Homerun

by | Feb 15, 2019

The text thread got busier and busier in light of the coming snow storm. With the elder’s retreat planned a month in advance for this past weekend, the sensational projections of snowfall ignited much dialogue about whether to go over the mountain or hunker down – fill the tanks and clear out Fred Meyer shelves. After much prayer and evaluation, our elders decided to make the trek over the mountain to Pine Hollow (in Wamic, Oregon.) Everyone arrived safely with absolutely no incident.

Rule #1 – begin with food! We enjoyed a chicken enchilada dinner and then began our first session. Following prayer and a devotion on Galatians Chapter 5 of moving bad fruit to good fruit, we spent a few hours examining the previous 18 months. We put three columns on the flip chart: wins | misses | tbd. Before verbally sharing, we took personal time with our journals to invite the Holy Spirit to help us look back and bring to mind the wins over the last 18 months, identify the misses or things that did not go so well and finally what is still needing more time “to be determined” or tbd to see if it is a win or a miss. Following the personal time, the elders shared for a few hours and filled up some pages.

The biggest wins included unifying the church by bringing three groups of worshipers together, a church wide strategy for local outreach, momentum in gathering and discipling the next generation and leadership and management to our Good Shepherd staff. These were the elders’ most significant wins because these were their goals for whomever God brought to be the new lead pastor. These were the most important emphases the Lord placed on our elders’ hearts. A few other wins identified included: the unity the elders as a leadership team are experiencing, the strong support from Stu, Randy and Alan for Good Shepherd, for Bob and for our direction. Even more wins included increased communication and transparency, a doubling of our group ministry, an emphasis on discipleship and many others.

A few of the misses included our congregational giving. Our giving is down from the year before, yet they quickly suggested that we move it to the “tbd” or to be determined column as they have great faith in our people to rally in the next four months to meet the goal the Lord laid on our hearts. Another miss was that some of the long-term existing challenging and issues could have and should have been resolved before a new lead pastor arrived rather than having to put that on him. Speed of change was discussed as a miss and tbd. These were clearly changes the elders desired, yet we could have done a better job communicating them ahead of time to prepare people and explain why we believed the changes were necessary. This was an authentic conversation. For me, it is critically important to fully hear our leaders’ reflections and evaluations.

“Our time together was rich with prayer, the word, purpose and fellowship as brothers in Christ. What a joy it was to review the past eighteen months of “wins” we’ve experienced as a church under new leadership, while looking to the future under God’s Word, calling and promises was flat out exciting.” Doug Gabbert

Rule #2 – end the session early and give people a chance to relax, talk and sleep. Following a good night’s sleep, we convened Saturday morning to pray, and we centered our devotion on sharing the good news of Jesus, the gospel. The next few hours were invigorating as each elder shared one visionary idea that the Lord may lead Good Shepherd to do in the future. The creative juices were flowing. It was wonderful to have each elder at the flip chart writing out his visionary idea and then sharing it. Good Shepherd is blessed to have such forward thinking leaders.

A brief lunch and a short rest, and then we were back at it. It was time to get our heads out of the clouds and back to reality. We titled the next session “Church Matters.” We shared and talked through more than twenty different issues including congregational matters, staff values and expectations and leadership opportunities. One elder shared that working on the nuts and bolts of leading a church at times is “not fun.” But, as he shared later, he had a significant “ah-ha moment.” While working through the church matters may not be fun, he realized that because we work through small church matters, that is why our church matters and why the Lord is allowing us great health and kingdom impact.

Rule #3 – be on the lookout for where God is at work and adjust to Him rather than forcing your schedule. A significant session that centered on a key concept from 2 Thessalonians 3 was scheduled for Saturday night. While we were eating dinner, I was reviewing in my mind how I would lead the next session which I was really excited about. Yet, something God-led happened over the few hours of the dinner break. It was an exceptional time of Spirit-centered relationship and joy. When I looked around during dinner and heard the laughing, saw the engagement of friendship, it was immediately clear – we should forego that evening’s session because the room was filled with the joy of the Lord. Wow! It was a wonderful night.

“I am grateful to have spent such a strong weekend together as a team, seeking our Lord on behalf of His bride, Good Shepherd Community Church; thanking Him for what He has done and seeking His wisdom for His glorious future.” Kress Drew

Sunday morning was quite special. The night before, I had asked for five volunteers, but I did not tell them what they were volunteering for. Five hands went up right away; that’s what happens when you have a room full of leaders who trust one another. With the five volunteers, we asked them to each prepare a five minute devotion for Sunday morning. That morning, we interspersed the five devotions with each elder’s (1) takeaway from the weekend, and (2) one prayer request for our church. The devotions led us right into the hands of our heavenly Father.

“Our time together in worship and praising the Lord for Good Shepherd’s blessings was very rewarding.” Dave Williams

The 2019 elder retreat was a homerun!