At this time last week 13 people found themselves locked in a mountain cabin strategizing about what to do next. Although this may sound like one of those new group strategy/escape games it was just the Uptown Church winter staff retreat. Our retreats are an important part of our staff life so here is a little bit more about Uptown staff retreats.
When and where do we retreat?
Summer staff retreat– Each August we head to Charleston, SC
Winter Staff Retreat– Each January/February we head to Boone, NC.
Why do we retreat? There are many reasons why we retreat, but here are three main reasons
1. Professional development-God has gathered a great staff team with variety of gifts. This team loves to work together and assist one another in serving for God’s glory. One of the opportunities we always take advantage of on retreats is taking time for strategic planning. We regularly remark about the value of our strategic planning time and the synergy of a staff that is all focused on serving Christ together.
2. Spiritual development- While we are away we focus on spiritual development by setting aside significant time for prayer, worship and group devotions. We do this in hopes that it will spiritually strengthen and encourage those that are called to spiritually serve Uptown Church.
3. Fellowship development-spending 3 days/2 nights together away from home offers a great amount of focused fellowship opportunities. It is always our hope that our staff returns to Charlotte with deeper love for one another than we left- and the Lord continues to bless us in this way.
What do we do on retreats?
Group devotions– Each retreat has a theme and the devotionals are taught by the pastors. The theme of our winter retreat was “The Greatest of these is Love” and the three devotionals were: The call to love (Tom), Loving those that are hurting (Wes) and Loving those that are hurting themselves or others (Dave).
Prayer for one another–On the first night of the retreat we typically settle in, eat dinner, and then spend the majority of the evening sharing prayer requests as a group and then praying for one another. This is a rich time of sharing, catching up with one another and praying for those that God has called us to serve along side.
Strategic planning-The bulk of our working time on each retreat is spent in strategic planning. On our winter retreat the main focus is on each staff member sharing Delta Goals for the year (goals for new things to implement in each area of service). On our summer retreat each staff member reviews progress on delta goals and then we do some group strategic thinking on key issues for our church (For instance this past year we did a SWOT analysis –Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – and focused on three major areas that came out of that).
Eating-We always eat well on staff retreats. This year Meghan Newman served the staff by making homemade lasagne using her grandmother’s authentic Italian recipe (there may have been a fight over who got the leftovers) and Wes and I had the honor of preparing breakfast which was our take on Eggs Benedict!
Fellowship/Fun– We build into the schedule specific group activities to enjoy time together. The picture above is of our hike, it was a grueling .2 miles in 9-degree weather. That night it was even colder, everyone was too cold to cook smores but Wes prepared a mini-bonfire to keep us warm.
Prayer for the church-We end our retreats praying for the church. It is a blessed time of rapid-fire prayers for ministries, people, and heartfelt needs. This is always a great way to close the retreat and this past time might have been my favorite. It was a true blessing to hear our staff pour out their hearts before our loving God who always listens.
What areas got the most attention during the strategic planning on this year’s Winter retreat?
The Gathering/Young Adults-The number one growing demographic at Uptown is young adults. We are very encouraged by this trend. We want to better serve this group and help them get better connected in service as well as bridge the relationships between the many generations and life stages at Uptown.
Outreach-It was great to hear a number of ideas about ways to encourage the church to grow as loving witnesses. Some of the ideas include equipping leaders to host Christianity explored groups and to encourage families to become more strategic neighbors.
Upcoming staff changes-This spring we are going to say goodbye to three interns and two full-time staff members. Our three graduating interns are:
- Andrew Newman (worship)-Andrew hopes to serve as a campus minister with RUF.
- Stacey Severance (Youth)-is headed to be a church planter in Florence…South Carolina not Italy.
- Harrison Ford (The Gathering/Young Adults), is headed to be the RUF campus minister at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Although we are more used to sending out interns it is going to hurt to say goodbye to two of our terrific full-time staff:
- Meghan Newman (Office Manager)- Since Andrew is going to be graduating and moving away Meghan thinks she should too.
- Christy Talamo (Children’s Ministry Director)-Joey and Christy are looking forward to the birth of their first baby in early April.
- These two have been such a blessing to our church staff…it will be hard to say goodbye and we are already praying God blesses us by providing skilled successors.
I have heard Dave Kulp is a bit retreat obsessed, What does the rest of the staff love most about staff retreats?
“I love our staff retreats because not only do we have the best group of people to hang out with, but we also do great vision casting and planning which I find very encouraging.” –Tom Hawkes
“I love staff retreats because they draw the staff of Uptown closer together with the vision of the church as well as with each other.” –Wade Savant
“I most enjoy getting to spend time with the rest of the staff and hearing what is going on in their lives. Being a part-timer, this is not something I am regularly able to do.” –Chris Vaughn
”I Love staff retreats because we get the privilege of seeing how the Lord is at work at Uptown Church.” –Andrew Newman
“Staff retreats are a unique opportunity to get away from the daily grind to do strategic planning, for friendships among the staff to deepen, and to strengthen the unity of the entire staff!” –Nathan Francis
“Spending time in prayer for the church is my favorite part of staff retreats. I love praying for anything or anyone that the Spirit brings to mind during that time!” –Meghan Newman
On behalf of the staff of Uptown Church, thank you for allowing us to have these times away so that we can better serve you. It is a joy and an honor to serve the Lord at Uptown Church. To God be the glory.
Author: Rev. Dave Kulp