Many congregations start the church year with a retreat for the Board of Trustees (including the Minister). Ideally, this retreat is held Friday evening through Saturday afternoon, at a site away from the place you usually meet. Perhaps you could go to someone's lake cabin or a local retreat center, so you could really get away. If the retreat is at a place where overnight accommodations can be provided, the "down time" between meeting segments will provide an opportunity for people to get acquainted in a less formal setting.
Why do a Board retreat? Three reasons come to mind: getting acquainted, setting norms, and setting the Board's priorities for the church year.
- Because your Board has new people coming on each year, the opportunity for getting to know one another and building relationships will be important.
- Setting expectations about regular attendance at meetings, timeliness, taking on and completing tasks as assigned, the Board "speaking with one voice," and so on, will help the work go smoothly during the year.
- Discussion of the past year and the issues currently facing the congregation will help the Board set priorities for the coming year.
It's helpful to have someone other than a Board member or the Minister lead the retreat, so that all current Board members can participate, rather than have to lead the agenda. Where would you find a facilitator? Perhaps a previous Board member [not one whose term has just ended] could lead the retreat. Or perhaps you can do an exchange with another congregation: "We'll provide a facilitator for your Board retreat if you'll provide someone for ours..." Your Region can also provide a facilitator/consultant to your congregation for a fee.
Who should be invited? All current Board members should attend. If you have a Minister [full time or part time], the Minister should also be included. Sometimes paid staff members are also invited, for all or part of the retreat. We recommend that the staff member who has the primary work for coordinating the work of the staff with the board should attend the retreat.
Friday evening–informal conversation over a meal or, if later in the evening, some snacks. Start with a Chalice Lighting, then a get acquainted exercise, which might including telling the story of how you came to this congregation and why you said yes to the opportunity to be on the Board. End the evening with a review of the agenda for the next day and a big "Thank You" for agreeing to serve the congregation in this way!
Saturday morning–if the Board has a covenant together, read that aloud, ask for anything that needs to be clarified or any suggestions for revision before all agree to abide by it this year. Go over the congregation's mission and vision statements, and strategic plan (if you have one).
Review the goals from the past year, celebrating the successes and the learnings.
Decide on norms for participation this year – expectations about attendance at Board meetings, etc. [see above].
Review any additional issues from the past year, by continuing Board members.
Saturday afternoon–discussion of challenges or issues anticipated for this year, as known by continuing Board members, Minister, and suggested by new Board members.
Set 3 or 4 goals for the Board for the year.
End by thanking everyone for their participation in the retreat.