How to Hold A Board Retreat

By Sana Saeed

cartoon of four humans around a round table, view from above.

It’s that time of the year again, when new leadership joins congregational boards. Summer is a time of transformation for some congregational leaders. I often receive questions around this time on how to hold a board retreat. Last year, Pat Infante and I held a webinar on holding a board retreat.

One key takeaway from that webinar was to think about a board retreat as a time to build relationships and do some goal setting. A church board is not like a corporate board or a non-profit board. Leadership on a congregation’s board are community members of a spiritual home. They have a personal relationship with the church as a place of spiritual nourishment and belonging. So, we encourage you to think about board retreats as places that welcome building more relationships and doing less business. This includes having elements in the sample agenda that engage the spiritual like a chalice lighting, music, or brief guided meditation to get started.

Some barriers to successful board retreats include having too much on the agenda that people leave feeling like nothing was accomplished. Having competing priorities and not having any space for grace and compassion when people disagree. This is why we encourage you to think about not using retreat time as a place to set budgets, but rather as a place for new leadership to learn about their roles, for everyone to feel heard and included, and use a retreat to build a cohesive and effective team. The objectives should be to have fun, focus and be in fellowship.

I encourage you to watch the webinar, which includes going over a sample agenda for a retreat and has tips on dealing with board conflicts.

Here are some links and resources that were mentioned on the webinar:


  • Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership by Dan Hotchkiss (Second Edition)
  • High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out by Amanda Ripley​
  • Transforming Conflict by Rev Terasa Cooley​

Upcoming CER Events for Board:

  • Helpful Board Habits: Help your board develop good decision-making processes by developing helpful board habits. Learn more at the event page.

About the Author

Sana Saeed

Rev. Sana Saeed is the Congregational Life Staff for the Central East Region of the UUA since July. Previously, she was an Intern Minister for UU Ministers Association (UUMA) and was the President of Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM). She’s a graduate of Harvard Divinity...

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