Church Worker Retreats

What is a Church Worker Retreat?

A Church Worker retreat is an opportunity for church workers in the LCMS and their spouses to Reflect, Restore and Reinvigorate for renewed energy and joy in ministry.  It’s a retreat in the purest sense of the word: a real break from the hectic and stressful ministry lifestyle and time to rest in God’s good grace.  At a Church Worker retreat, you will Reflect on God’s design for your health and wellness, Restore your body and soul through rest, worship and fellowship and Re-invigorate for a return to ministry with a plan for a healthier lifestyle back home.

Who attends Church Worker Retreats?

All active church workers and spouses of the LCMS are invited to attend our retreats.  Pastors, educators, Directors of Family Life Ministry, DCE’s, deaconesses, parish nurses, musicians and others participate in our retreats every year.  Most years include some specialized retreats, just for deaconesses or DCE’s for example, but most are open to all professional church workers, rostered or not.

Why do people attend Church Worker Retreats?

Church Worker retreats are focused on teaching God’s kingdom workers to care for themselves and their families so that they can better care for those they serve.  Some attend a retreat to learn healthier practices, such as diet and exercise.  Some attend to work on the relationships at home, marriage and family.  Some attend to renew their worship and devotional life and strengthen their relationship with God in Christ.  Others attend just to experience a pause point in the sometimes frantic lifestyle of ministry.  Everyone seems to experience the retreat in their own personal way.

Is Grace Place Wellness a therapeutic program for church workers experiencing burnout?

No.  Grace Place Wellness is a preventive wellness ministry, teaching healthy workers how to manage stress and consistently experience the joy of ministry.  Church workers in crisis because of stress or burnout, or because of a severely strained marriage are encouraged to consider the ministry of Shepherd’s Canyon Retreats, an RSO of the LC-MS.  Shepherd’s Canyon offers a program of intensive counseling at their retreats.

Where are Church Worker retreats held?

Grace Place Wellness maintains a small office in St. Louis, but our retreats are held at resorts and conference centers at scenic locations around the country.  We look for first class accommodations in a setting that offers refreshing activities and recreational opportunities such as the Colorado Rockies or the Northwood’s country.  Many of our retreats are sponsored by the geographic districts of the synod and are held in their region.  The Church Worker retreats are held wherever we can gather with the Lord’s people and retreat together!  We are always interested in coming to new regions of the country and are actively pursuing the funding that would make that possible!  Check our calendar to see if your district is hosting a retreat this year.

What is the typical schedule at a retreat?

Couples Retreat in Aspen, COOur 5-day retreats typically begin around 3:00 on Mondays and conclude Fridays at noon.  Each day centers on the Daily Office with four brief times of devotion before breakfast, at noon and supper time and at the end of the day.  We follow morning devotion with a light stretching/exercise program suitable for all fitness levels.  Mornings are used as instructional time.  Afternoons are completely free for rest, adventure, reflection or relationship time, as each couple determines for themselves!  After the evening meal, fellowship activities are often a part of the close of the day.

Thursday is typically an introduction to the spiritual discipline of fasting.  Where medically appropriate, the noon meal is replaced by healthy juices throughout the day.  Some of our adventurous retreatants skip breakfast also!  Instruction in fasting is given earlier in the week.

What is taught at a Church Worker retreat?

Wellness Wheel

The Lutheran Wellness Wheel

Our instructional model is The Lutheran Wellness Wheel developed with the input of Grace Place Wellness Staff by the LCMS Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support.  The central teaching of the Wellness Wheel is the Baptismal Wellness granted us in the New Creation of God’s Grace and the Spiritual Wellness we experience through God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament.  The retreat then explores how children of God experience His healing grace in Relational, Intellectual, Emotional, Vocational, Physical and Financial Wellness.

Each participant leaves the retreat with guidance and the beginnings of a wellness plan for that aspect of healthy, balanced living that they choose to work on through post-retreat disciplines.

What is the worship like at Grace Place Wellness?

Daily devotional times are based on the Daily Office in Lutheran Service Book and utilize the rich heritage of Christian music and hymnody from past and present.  Martin Luther’s form of Lection Divina is taught and experienced during the half hour Morning Prayer, guiding participants through times of prayer (oratio), meditation (meditatio) and struggle/application (tentatio).  Noontime, evening and close of day devotions follow a simpler, briefer format.

The Thursday evening Eucharist service is hosted by a congregation of the LCMS and follows the established practice of our church body.

What’s the cost of a retreat?

The cost to attend a retreat can vary depending upon its location and district sponsorship. Generally, the cost is $300 – $600 per couple for the week with workers from the sponsoring district at the lower end of the scale.  Individual registrations are somewhat less.  Please check our retreat schedule for a list of retreats and pricing.  Participants must provide for their own transportation to and from retreat site.

The “actual cost” of a retreat is approximately $2,000-3,000 for any given retreat week.  However, through grants and generous donations of individuals and districts, the out of pocket expense is dramatically reduced for the church worker, representing a gift of care and love for our professional church workers.

Who leads the retreats?

Our Program Director, Rev. Dr. Darrell Zimmerman leads our retreats.  Rev. Dr. Zimmerman attended the first Grace Place Wellness retreat in 1999 with his wife Carol and served in parish ministry for 30 years.  He joined the Grace Place Wellness staff full time in 2012.

What can we do to prepare for the retreat?

St.Louis-Seminary-Retreat-2014All retreat participants are encouraged to have a physical exam and complete the health screening form prior to the retreat.    Retreatants are also asked to complete several other emergency information and release forms, all of which are available to download on our website.

Ephesians chapter 4 is a guiding scripture for our retreat.  Some advance study and reflection can enhance your retreat experience.

How did Grace Place Wellness get started?

In his medical practice in St. Louis, Dr. John Eckrich served many of the vast number of Lutheran pastors and educators and their families in town.  He also served as the campus doctor for Concordia Seminary, and his office was down the street from the International Center in Kirkwood.  Over the years he was amazed by the high incidence of stress related illness among Lutheran church work professionals.

Recognizing the great potential for Lutheran congregations to be places of wellness and healing, but frustrated by the widespread incapacity of pastors and other workers in the church to care for themselves, Dr. Eckrich and his wife Kathy, along with Lutheran friends and supporters from across the synod,  hosted the first Grace Place Wellness retreat in Aspen, Colorado in the fall of 2000.

Believing that “Healthy Workers Lead Healthy Congregations,” Dr. Eckrich started Grace Place Wellness as a part-time effort.  He left his medical practice in 2006 to lead the ministry full time.  Thousands of church workers across the synod and in partner churches worldwide have been served by our ministry.

How can Grace Place Wellness help us transfer our experience back to parish life?

Our newest program, the Congregational Wellness Retreat is a 10 hour weekend retreat experience for staff and lay leaders conducted at your ministry site and intended to help you and your leadership create the best possible ministry environment for the church’s workers.  We discuss the wellness principles taught at the retreat back in the congregational setting so you can begin to explore how healthy workers benefit the entire congregation and its mission to be the people of God in the community.