Yesterday I got home from the 4th Big Idea Retreat that I’ve led with several of our staff. Every year I take 5-8 of our staff away for a couple of days and as a group, we outline the next year’s message series. Every year, I’m blown away that we’re able to do this and that we come out of it with some great material. Now that I’ve done this for 4 years, here’s a few of the benefits and why I keep doing it:
1. There are great ideas that I would never have on my own
The way that I was trained to come up with message series is to go away on my own and to dream up what we’re going to be talking about. I could really easily do that – there’s plenty of things that I’d love to talk about, but if we did, the kinds of messages that we would do would be heavily slanted towards what I more naturally want to communicate. Different people have different passions and vantage points when it comes to what we need to communicate. Some of our best series in the past few years were ones that someone else came up with and would have never happened if I was the sole idea person for our message series. Our messages at church are richer because we do this every year.
2. Planning 1 year ahead gives me more room for ideas to build
Because I now know what we’re speaking on through 2012, I can collect ideas along the way, begin reading books that would be helpful and start processing ideas that are months away from being delivered as a sermon. I have a system where I catalogue ideas, insights, etc that can be used in messages. This helps me to have some direction on what to be collecting. This takes a huge burden off of my shoulders…and I’m not constantly having to figure out what we’re going to be talking about next month.
3. We can plan natural ebbs and flows in the life of the church
By planning 1 year in advance, we can be thinking about what we talk about based on attendance patterns, what’s happening at that time of year, and having a healthy balance of the kinds of sermons that we deliver.
4. There is greater buy-in with what we’re doing as a church
The messages that we give help to shape our church and really in a lot of ways are a means to cast vision, simply by what we chose to talk about. I believe that vision is worked out in a team environment, which then also means that the message topics need to be worked out in a team environment
5. I can give voice to and push back on theological ideas and biblical interpretations
I don’t do a huge amount of teaching through specific texts with our staff or theologies, but as we talk about messages and how we want to frame things, I get an opportunity to speak into the way that we’re reading texts and some of our theological framework in a more pointed way than I do when we do take opportunities to talk about that stuff as a staff. It was funny to me what people remembered I had said about specific passages of Scripture based on what we had talked about in years past. And at the same time, I get challenged by
6. I enjoy hanging with our staff
There are things that we can’t plan for, conversations we can’t create and experiences that we don’t have together outside of getting away and spending a few days with one another. I think those encounters make us a better team and help us towards pushing the ball down the field a little bit better. Plus, it gives me some great blackmail material on our staff.
Our Big Idea retreat has become, I believe, one of the more important things that we do each year for our church. I love it and am already starting to think about next year’s.