Tips for planning a visioning retreat

By Jim LaDoux
Visioning retreats are great opportunities to build community, to dream, to laugh, and to learn together as you discern God's intentions for your congregation.  The retreat should also serve as a springboard for taking action toward a new future and bright future for your church. Below you'll find the key elements your visioning team will need to address when planning a retreat.

1 | Define the purpose of the retreat

The purpose of the retreat is to . . .
  • Build trust and community among retreat participants.
  • Share data gathered during the congregational review process.
  • Share Interpretations of the data and along with key findings.
  • Engage participants in exercises designed to reimagine the church's future.
  • Identify the important and urgent items to address first in the visioning process.
  • Form project teams and select project coordinators to guide next steps.
  • identify what needs to be share with members of the congregation.

2 | Make a list of people to invite

Begin with making a list of people who are currently invest in the church's mission. Create list of 25-35 people who are willing to not only help imagine the church's preferred future but are also willing to invest their time, energy, and wisdom to make the preferred future a reality. People who are typically on this list include:
  • Members of the  Vision Team
  • Board Members/elected leaders.
  • Pastors, program staff, and administrators. 
  • Ministry Team Leaders, connectors, and communication coordinators.
  • People who have 3-5 hours per month (for six months) to invest in 
  • People who have 3-5 hours/month to INVEST in the church's preferred future.

Once you've created the list, assign someone to gather phone and email address so that they can be emailed an invitation and can be followed up with by a phone call or text message.

3 | Assign responsibilities to Visioning team members.

Assign people to the following tasks:
  • 1 - Create a master list of people to invite along with their contact information.
  • 2 - Prepare and send an email invitation to invitees; tracking who is coming and follow up with people who have not responded. Set a registration deadline approximately 2 weeks before the event.
  •  3- Decide who will compile all reports into the Visioning Retreat booklet. Determine when it needs to be printed, how many will be printed, and when it will be emailed to participants.
  • 4 - Confirm retreat location and make plans for food, beverages, and retreat supplies.
  • 5 - Greet people when they arrive at the retreat; provide them with a pen, name tag, and a Visioning Retreat Booklet. 
  • 6 - List, purchase or bring presentation equipment and supplies. This may include a monitor/projector, a laptop and cables, a sound system, newsprint, markers, and any devotional items.
  • 7- Present information found in the Visioning Retreat Booklet. A powerpoint is usually created to guide people through the information and to summarize key points.
  • 8 - Lead devotions and/or an opening and closing prayer.

4 | Determine will be included in the Visioning Retreat Booklet

Listed below are Items typically included in a booklet :
  • A retreat participant list.
  • The church's mission, vision, and values.
  • An overview of the church's structure and/or a roster of elected and ministry team leaders.
  • A summary of church's history.
  • A ministry Scorecard (# of members, average worship attendance, etc.).
  • A complete or abridged report of findings from the congregational survey.
  • A demographic report (many churches use Percept or MissionInsight reports). 
  • Feedback from interviews with local community leaders.
  • Devotional or worship resources if used during the retreat.

5 | Prepare to send an email invitation to participants

This email doesn't have to be long or fancy. Include a retreat schedule and basic information such as.

I wish to invite you to your church's Visioning Retreat which will be held day,date from
start time/end time at location.  During our time together, we will explore where we've been as a congregation, where we are now, and where we are going as a church. We are inviting people who are already invested in our church's mission and ministries, and are willing to invest 2-3 hours a month for the next 6 months, to live into the plan we create at the retreat. After you've discerned whether or not you feel called to participate in this retreat and this journey of renewal, please inform me of your intentions by calling or emailing me by list RSVP date. Thank you in advance for prayerfully considering sharing gifts and wisdom in this endeavor.
Name, Member of the Visioning Team


Listed below you'll find the flow of a typical visioning retreat. Customize it as you wish to honor your priorities and timeframe.

  • Lighting of the Christ Candle
  • Dwelling in the Word (Lectio Divina exercise)

  • Share a summary of the Congregational Survey.
  • Share a summary of insights based on interview with community leaders. 
  • Share demographic information, noting what's changing and what's not.

  • Share information & instructions for gathering feedback.
  • Participate in Purpose and Priorities exercise.
  • Participate in Congregational Identity, Life Cycle & Culture  exercise
  • Participate in Visioning Stations exercise based on church vitality indicators.
  • Participate in Dreams with a Deadline exercise.

  • Assign retreat participants to working teams.
  • Select a coordinator for each team.
  • Have coordinator schedule meeting with Vibrant Faith coach. 
  • Set first meeting date. 

  • Summarize  conversations & key decisions  from the Vision Retreat. 
  • Outline next faithful steps and how communication willl be shared.
  • Complete 1-page feedback form
  • Group Sending and Blessing  exercise.


  1. Not all the work for the retreat has to be done by Visioning Team members. Who else could help you plan, promote and host the event?
  2. Strategize beforehand how you'll divide people into visioning stations during the retreat.
  3. Decide before the retreat how you'll assign people to project teams.
  4. Once people have been assigned to teams, have members determine and when their first project team meeting will be held.

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