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Executive Staff Retreat

Former President and General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower was once asked about the relationship of plans and planning for the great D-Day invasion.  He is reported to have said something like “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”  This great truth applies to most significant efforts.  Planning is critical but events intrude and flexibility and adaptability are essential. A couple times a year, I go on a one-day retreat/meeting with what I call the Executive Staff.  The executive staff consists of the 3 Center Directors (Leadership, Mission Support, and Evangelism & Church Growth) and the Dean of the Cabinet.  I have a similar retreat time with the District Superintendents and the Lay Leader.  The attempt is organize in an efficient way that lets each group focus its efforts and then report to the Cabinet as whole on what needs greater attention by the whole group. There is a fairly new term for such planning and reflection time.  It is called “balcony time.”  It is a time we try to step back and look at the whole as if from above.  Most of us remember the old adage:  “When you are up to your neck in alligators, it is hard to remember that your original intent was to drain the swamp.”  Another way to think of balcony time comes from a friend who is a retired Army General.  He was asked to comment about all the plans that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had to reorganize the Pentagon.  The General noted that events overtook his best plans. This is true for all of us!  Our Executive Staff Retreat is a chance to catch our breath and hopefully not get overwhelmed with the ongoing tasks always before us.  It is an opportunity to lay the biblical mandates next to the operational activities of our Conference.  It is a time to be open to the Spirit’s guidance.  Our focus is on learning and discernment. The tentative agenda for the Executive Staff retreat is: I.            A Time of Centering and Prayer         “The Priority of the Gospel”  Philippians 1:12-26 II.            Re-examination of Core Values
  1. Do these values reflect our deepest convictions?
  2. Do they guide our decision making?
  3. What do we need to learn?
III.            Learnings on Building a Healthy Organization – The Advantage & Acts 2:42-47
  1. Where are we?
  2. What are we making progress on?
  3. What is blocked or missing?
  4. Where do we need to put our focus?
  5. One page evaluation – Where do we stand & what needs to go to Cabinet as a whole?
IV.            Thematic Goal for 2014: increasing the number of vital congregations
  1. How are we doing? (+10% this year)
  2. How do we increase the commitment or “buy in” to this thematic goal?
  3. Where do we need to put our emphasis in the upcoming 6 months?
V.            Fall Focus Events/Ministry Initiatives
  1. Kenya Mission Trip
  2. Seven Levers with Bishop Schnase
  3. Clergy Day Apart
  4. Wesley vs. Calvin possible study?
  5. What other activities need our emphasis on the Conference Calendar?
VI.            Leadership Development
  1. Cabinet Bible Study or reading project for the fall
  2. Do we attend the Verge Conference in 2015?
  3. What are next steps for emphasis in clergy recruitment & lay leadership development?
  4. Process Issues for our attention
    1. Annual Conference Planning Team organization and schedule
    2. Looking ahead at Conference worship in 2015+
    3. Other?
This agenda will change as we move through the day.  There is an intentional rhythm to the schedule.  We hope to quiet ourselves and step back from the hectic pace of everyday activities.  From there, the day moved from a high view (what I like to call 40,000 feet up) to on-the-ground execution of activities and ministry. In a speech at the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference in 1957, President Eisenhower went on to comment: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of "emergency" is that it is unexpected; therefore, it is not going to happen the way you are planning. So, the first thing you do is to take all the plans off the top shelf and throw them out the window and start once more. But if you haven't been planning you can't start to work, intelligently at least. That is the reason it is so important to plan, to keep yourselves steeped in the character of the problem that you may one day be called upon to solve--or to help to solve.”  It is great advice.  Even better advice comes from Proverbs 21:5 – “The plans of the diligent end up in profit, but those who hurry end up with loss.”