Grace Place Lutheran Retreats provide a “pause point” for church workers to reflect, re-tool through education, and then rejuvenate in their personal lives and in vocational directions so that they may fulfill the mission of sharing the Gospel with others. The Retreat is a starting point in the form of a safe haven, perhaps even considered a mini-sabbatical, to assess where they are in terms of self care (not selfish care), to develop new skills and strategies to care for themselves and others, and then to continue in the harvest field with joy and vigor, living abundantly in God’s grace. From the opening moment of the Retreat, remembering the cleansing in their Baptism, the retreat participants ask for the working of the Holy Spirit on all they think, say and do during the walk. The participants remain in the Word throughout the week, observing four hours of prayer focused in the Scriptures each day. Evenings are punctuated by times of faith exploration and worship.
Our retreat agenda was developed over ten years, after substantial study and research of workers’ stressors, by pastoral care advocates nationwide, primarily Lutheran resources…Lutheran physicians, theologians, psychologists, conflict resolution facilitators, financial advisors, and Seminary and Synodical leaders. Over 100 retreats have been held throughout the US and abroad, and over 2500 church workers and leaders and their spouses have attended the programs.
Generally, each retreat is devoted to a specific worker category; i.e., pastors with fellow pastors and teachers with fellow teachers. Worker spouses are encouraged but not required to attend, and single pastors or teachers are invited to all retreats, noting that there are also additional retreats focused on the particular challenges of being unmarried in ministry. At this time, all pastoral retreats have LCMS-only attendees, with the exception of the single clergy retreat held each Fall, to which any single pastor from a Lutheran synod is invited to attend. Educator retreats tend to have a pan-Lutheran audience, predominantly LCMS teachers because of the large number of LCMS Lutheran schools; but ELCA, WELS and ELS members have comfortably attended. There is attention and adherence to prayer, devotional and worship practices of participants so that this is truly a safe haven for those making the retreat walk. Prior to retreat, a list of attendees is available to all participants upon request.
Grace Place Life-Long Learning is a highly interactive continuing educational site housed through CUnet, the Concordia University host site accessed at www.graceplacelifelonglearning.org that retreat alumni are encouraged to enter post-retreat so that the health attitudes and strategies, developed on retreat, can be sustained into the future. Each retreat pod remains together as a “working group” for one year, reassessing their progress at 3, 6, and 12 months post retreat. For those wishing to continue their health education beyond one year, an additional pod devoted to body, mind, relationship and spiritual health can be entered indefinitely.
The retreats are not a vacation! The retreat experience is a four-day, four-night journey…comprehensive, invitationally guided (you don’t have to do things!), with a balance of meditative, exercise-oriented, educational, and recreational activities, smattered throughout the day. The days hinge around four observations of prayer taken out of the new Lutheran Service Book; Morning, Noon Day, Early Evening, and Close of Day prayer. Appropriate Psalms are often sung to chant tones. Traditional hymns and contemporary songs are scattered through formal and informal liturgical settings. Hymn books, DVD’s, and both organ and string instrumentation, all done at high quality standards, are used throughout the week. Retreat participants are strongly urged to bring their own Bibles and devotional resources as well, as much time is spent in the Word.
The interactive educational units cover core Grace Place messages…the movement from Old Adam- living to New Adam-living through the power of the Holy Spirit and the continuous presence of Christ in our hearts; the dynamic living as “WE”, instead of living as “ME” in personal, marital, child-rearing and congregational relationships; the recognition and addressing of the very real, 21st Century tentatio…the attacks of Satan on the preaching and teaching of the Word; the threatening stresses of poor fiscal health and the acquiring of disciplines to correct financial deficiencies; conflict management through Biblically-based confession and absolution; the understanding of the critical attention to care of self, and not selfish care, as a preamble to joyful and effective care of neighbor; the pivotal importance of prayer and care of our individual relationship with Jesus Christ permeating personal pilgrim walk, vocation and leisure.
Every afternoon of the retreat is spent in rest and recreation, generally a block of 4-6 hours of free time. The recreational opportunities vary with location; perhaps high mountain jeeping, hiking, fly fishing or golf in the Rockies, or sea kayaking in Puget Sound, or vineyard-touring in Napa or the Missouri Wine country, or canoeing and fishing in the North woods. Outdoor activities with spouses or fellow retreatants are encouraged, but we also understand the best recreation can be a good ole’ fashion nap!
Evenings on retreat navigate around personal and group faith exploration and/or worship opportunities, again always invitational rather than compulsory. Some evenings might focus on hymn-sings and reflections on health and healing ministries; others on personal devotional life. Occasionally, evenings also include attendance of concerts or local arts and educational venues.
In the setting of an LCMS retreat, the week may close with the celebration of the Eucharist which might include a time of personal prayer or the rite of anointing with oil coupled with prayer. Again, all worship and devotional settings are invitational. All retreats conclude with recognition of and thanksgiving to God, understanding that it is God that heals us (Exodus 15:26)…with the singing of A Mighty Fortress (Psalm 46), for it is He who is refuge and strength…that Christ is the only pathway to the Father, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)…that we are saved by grace through faith, not of our own doing (Ephesians 2:8-9)…but having been justified and sanctified by Christ’s cross and resurrection, we are to walk our Baptismal life as His workmanship in service to others and glory to God (Ephesians 2:10).
The retreats and life-long learning modules are outcome-driven. This means that four major health-behavior pillars in spiritual, physical, emotional/relational, and intellectual health are defined, exemplified, rehearsed and assessed throughout the retreat and into the life-long learning process post retreat. The four relational health pillars can carry from personal life into congregational life, but are often best acquired and practiced in the “school of the spirit” that exist in home-life and the church worker family.
Physical self, as the temple of the Holy Spirit, should be improved. A participant should understand their current state of health; understand the importance of weight and rest control and need for and skills in daily exercise. They should have knowledge of heart-healthy cooking.
They should know the essential wellness screening requirements of their age, and have a community resource to follow-up on their health. They should know the benefits through their health plan, whether CPS or others.
They should understand the importance of healthy relationships, how to define them as living as WE rather than as ME. They should have acquired skills to mend broken relationships at home and work, to serve healthily as spouse, parent and loving member of the body of Christ.
They should understand fiscal stewardship, been instructed in how to budget, reduce credit card debt, plan for children’s education and their own retirement, among other financial skills, and have gained insight in how to live within one’s means.
They should have a deeper understanding of the importance of their personal spiritual health, have gained personal devotional resources and experienced opportunities for couples devotions and prayer time; have appreciation for models and need for mutual care services, that is spiritual mentors or friends within or outside the congregation to be ties that help bind us to the body of Christ.
Understand the strategic need of continuing education in all areas of health so that we may address and adjust to changing challenges and opportunities presented in our personal and ministry life; be aware of life-long learning resources through Grace Place and other Synodical and extra-Synodical storehouses for continuing education.
They are prepared to continue in their personal pilgrim walk and ministry service with joy and vigor.
The cost to attend a retreat is $345 per couple for the week.
Participants generally must provide for their own transportation to retreat site.
The “actual cost” of attendance is approximately $2000 for any given retreat week. (This is the actual cost to Grace Place, not what the attendee couple pays.) However, through grants and generous donations of individuals and foundations, the out of pocket expense is dramatically reduced for the church worker, representing a gift of care and love for our dear Lutheran pastors and teachers.
Registration can be made by check or credit card at the on-line link provided at this web-site.
Most church workers enter the ministry excited and ready to serve. Frequently, however, the demands of their callings, lack of appropriate self- or congregationally-defined boundaries and expectations, and attacks of Satan on their ministry of the Word sap the joy and vigor of their service. Their job roles are many and diverse, they are “on call” 24/7/365, the remuneration for their efforts is limited in human terms, and on occasion, parishioners don’t have a realization of the extent of pastors’ or educators’ stresses and challenges, fallibility, saint/sinner status. Too often, personal and professional “burn out” is the end result for the church worker, with devastating and documented losses in Gospel ministry.
Well-meaning workers spend so much time and energy taking care of parishioners, that they fail to take time to care for themselves or their families. Disease and dysfunction run rampant. Sound familiar...?
Aspen sits at 7,908 feet above sea level and that’s quite an adjustment for most of us. Upon arrival you may notice that you don’t feel like yourself. Do you feel fatigued, or have a headache and stuffy nose? And why are you so short of breath after walking up one flight of stairs?
Retreat sites are chosen for excellence in service and facility and are held nationwide in regional settings of great beauty. Examples include, Aspen, Colorado; Cumberland, Maryland; Seattle, Washington; Mackinac Island, Michigan; Gulf Coast, Alabama.
Yes, Grace Place Lutheran Retreats is firstly a Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and also an Affiliated Organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).