What is a Congregational Wellness Weekend?
It’s a conversation among church leaders asking, “What is a healthy congregation?” It’s an opportunity to discover God’s plan for the wellness of congregations and all who serve in their ministries. It’s the beginning of a journey toward creating the healthiest environment for people in ministry to thrive and experience joy in their callings.
A Congregational Wellness Weekend focuses on the central truths of the gospel, the forgiveness, love and peace that produce unity and oneness in the Church. Grace Place would like to help you and your congregation discover how other churches in The LCMS are learning to apply those truths in their daily life together as the people of God in mission.
Your congregation’s leaders are continually striving to fulfill the Lord’s Great Commission, asking, “What would the Lord have us DO to reach out with His love to our community?” We at Grace Place Wellness would like to help you answer the Great Commandment question, “How will we learn to love one another as we pursue the Lord’s mission?” That’s the purpose of a Congregational Wellness Weekend: to build unity and harmony in your church.
Our mission at Grace Place Wellness can be summarized, “Healthy Leaders for Healthy Congregations.” A Wellness Weekend at your church can help you in your journey toward becoming as healthy as the Lord intends you to be.
Who attends a Congregational Wellness Weekend?
Typically all the professional staff of the church, along with their spouses, and all lay leaders of the congregation participate in a Wellness Weekend. We encourage spouses of called workers to attend because they are often the most sensitive to the health and wellbeing of our workers and recognize the stresses and strains of the ministry lifestyle.
Any laypeople involved in ministry decision making in the congregation are also encouraged to attend. This certainly includes church council members and Elders, but also board and committee members, because they are all part of the ministry team that help create the healthiest environment for ministry.
A Congregational Wellness Weekend might range in size from as few as 10 people in a smaller congregation to as many as 100 or more in a larger church. Participants are clustered around tables groups of seven or eight people for discussion and planning, so the size of the retreat is limited only by available meeting space.
It’s also possible for a group of smaller congregations to share the expense of a Wellness Weekend by joining with other congregations in a multiple church event. Each church will have its own retreat within a retreat with members of different churches gathered at their own table or tables.
What happens at a Congregational Wellness Weekend ?
The Wellness Weekends are usually conducted by our Program Director, the Rev. Dr. Darrell Zimmerman. Darrell brings his 30 years of experience in ministry as a parish pastor and his long history with Grace Place Wellness to your church to facilitate an interactive discussion of the concepts of wellness taught in the Scriptures. Using the model of The Lutheran Wellness Wheel developed by the LCMS Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support, you will examine together the basics of baptismal, spiritual, intellectual, relational, emotional, vocational, physical and financial health and how you can grow in each of these areas.
Dr. Zimmerman will begin each of eight sessions with a time of teaching and instruction and then turn it over to you for discussion in your groups with a focus on how you might apply the principles of congregational health in your setting. Your time together is interspersed with times of devotion and prayer that set the tone for the day.
Is there a typical schedule for the Wellness Weekend?
Most often congregations plan for a Friday evening and Saturday event, meeting from 6-9 on Friday, and concluding Saturday by 3 PM. We try to be as sensitive as we can to the schedules of lay volunteers in ministry and yet provide for a full and fruitful experience.
Our staff is willing to work to individually design a retreat experience that meets your needs and adjusts to the availability of participants.
What are the outcomes we can expect from a Wellness Weekend?
Our purpose is that the staff and lay leaders of your congregation will grow in their understanding of the biblical teaching on wellness. We hope also that you will learn to apply the specific skills that are taught on the weekend, skills in spiritual growth, communication, conflict management and physical health. Grace Place also encourages the establishment of Church Worker Support Teams at the conclusion of the Wellness Weekend, and also a Congregational Health and Wellness Committee to guide the ministry of wellness at your church.
What is a Church Worker Support Team?
A Church Worker Support Team is a specially chosen group of people with a passion for the health and vitality of workers in the church. These people might be selected because of their role in the church, such as Elder or Council member or just because of their concern for the well being of those who serve us. Hopefully others will be chosen because of their special expertise in human resources, social work or medicine. Their role is to work to establish caring, encouraging relationships with called workers in the church, to offer guidance and support in their journey toward wellness and work with the governance of the congregation to help create the best possible environment for their workers’ service in the church.
How do we prepare for the Congregational Wellness Weekend?
The retreat leader from Grace Place Wellness will contact your church leadership for two special activities to prepare you for the best experience. The first is a conversation with the Pastor or designated ministry leader to do a congregational Pre-Retreat Assessment. Our hope is to get to know your congregation as best we can before the retreat, to understand your history, your community and the special joys and challenges you are currently facing as well as past blessings and anxieties that have shaped your church’s ministry. We want to know about any significant changes in staff or ministry undertakings, financial challenges, building programs, innovative new ministries and the like so that we can address your particular needs at the retreat.
The second activity is a telephone conference call with as many participants as possible some weeks before the retreat, a Pre-Retreat Orientation, that will help us “hit the ground running” when we meet. This might be conducted at a church council, Elders meeting, or at a staff meeting, so that those attending will have an idea of what the Wellness Weekend is all about. It’s possible to have this conversation with more than one group if necessary.
Where is the Congregational Wellness Weekend held?
In order to save expense, the Wellness Weekend is usually held at the church. Our staff will gladly work with you to hold the retreat at any suitable conference center or retreat facility of your choosing if that is more desirable!
How is the message of the Wellness Weekend shared with the rest of the congregation?
Dr. Zimmerman is available to share the story of church health and wellness at your regular weekend services through preaching and/or leading Bible classes.
What resources are available for follow-up after the Wellness Weekend?
Two resources have been prepared for your use after the retreat.
The first is a daily devotional guide for use by all participants at the Wellness Weekend called “Forty Days toward Congregational Health.” It is a verse by verse reflection on Ephesians chapter 4 designed to continue and reinforce the topics covered at the retreat. We hope it will stimulate more conversations about creating a healthy environment for ministry at your church.
The second is a twenty-four month series of devotional reflections designed for staff, board and committee meetings based on the twenty-four markers of congregational health discussed on the weekend. These devotions are designed for opening ministry team meetings, but could also be used for a series of eight week Bible studies, or any number of ways.
What is the cost of a Congregational Wellness Weekend?
Most churches can host a Congregational Wellness Weekend for under $1800.
The costs are limited to a program fee ( for congregations, $1200 for agencies or organizations), travel and lodging actual cost for the presenter, a materials and printing fee of $10 per participant and the congregation’s usual preaching honorarium if applicable. Grace Place Wellness also encourages that meals and refreshments be provided on-site so we can make the best use of our time on Friday evening and Saturday.
Can smaller congregations host a Wellness Weekend for more than one church?
Absolutely! We have had a very positive experience with multiple churches sharing the expense of the weekend while still having their own congregational conversations gathered around their table groups. As long as a suitable meeting space is provided, any number of churches can assemble key leadership to participate in a combined weekend.
How can we receive more information?
A packet of information, including a rough estimate of costs, can be ordered by contacting Beth McAnallen in the Grace Place Wellness office, or by calling 314-842-3077. You can find downloads of some of these materials on our website.