In war, retreating is not always a bad thing. Sometimes troops need to redeploy for greater effectiveness. This may allow assessment of tactics, supplies, and distribution of equipment and forces. Sometimes retreating allows for rest and preparation for the next phase. It may even give time for additional personnel to join in the effort.
In our Sunday School efforts to enable the church to carry out the marching orders given to us by our Lord in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), sometimes we also need to retreat for similiar reasons. It can be a great time to evaluate progress, deployment, and effort along with allowing some time for relationship building, goal setting and adjustment, and preparation for next steps. Newly enlisted apprentices and class workers can be great additions to the team and the retreat as well.
A Sunday School retreat can be at the church or away. Sometimes being away prevents interruptions and allows the group to accomplish more in less time. The retreat will usually last longer than a regular meeting and require between four and twenty-four hours. Though the agenda will set the length for the retreat, the time for a retreat should not be rushed because relationships and team-building take time. The retreat may or may not be overnight.
What are some of the issues that could be considered before or while retreating? Obviously each set of issues will be driven by the needs of the setting. But consider some of the following questions:
- How should we pray for the Sunday School? leaders? classes? goals and plans?
- How are we doing so far (since the beginning of the new Sunday School year)? What do our records say? What is going well? What areas need work?
- How are we doing on our goals? What can we do to make sure we accomplish them? Are additional plans or events needed? Do any goals need to be adjusted (higher or lower)?
- What needs have already been identified this year that need to be addressed in the months ahead? Which ones are priorities? What goals and plans need to be made to focus here? Who needs to be in charge, and what is the deadline?
- Which classes are growing and which are declining? What help is needed by both?
- How can we support the work of new classes which were started? Are any new classes needed? Do any age groups need to be adjusted?
- How are we doing on space, equipment, furnishings, curriculum, and supplies in current classes and for future classes?
- What is the status of class prospects, absentees, apprentices, and leadership positions? Do we have the right people in the right places? Who needs to be added to the team?
- What training is needed in order to accomplish plans that have been made? (Could this training be provided during the retreat?)
- What opportunities are coming for which Sunday School should be prepared and/or mobilized?
- What can be done to raise the level of spiritual maturity and service of attenders?
- How can Sunday School connections/relationships be strengthened?
- How can Sunday School undergird others parts of the work of the church? How can other church groups undergird the work of the Sunday School?
Again, this list is simply a beginning. What would you add to the list? It is never too late (or too early) to plan a retreat. The work is too important only to “hope” it gets done. Pray. Gather your leaders. Evaluate. Identify needs and priorities. Set goals. Make plans. Adjust. Enlarge. Work hard. Be revolutionary!