Worship Team Retreats: Why They’re Worth It!

north-georgia-cabin-nightWhen I entered worship ministry leadership, I had spent the previous nine years in student ministry. If you know anything about student ministry, you know we like to spend lots of time together and have lots of retreats, play crazy games and light lots of candles. I entered worship ministry and immediately carried these ideas over into my work with adults simply because I didn’t know any better! But it is an “accident of ignorance” that I thank God for every year. I scheduled our first worship team retreat in 1999 and the fun hasn’t stopped since! It would not be an overstatement to say that our yearly retreat is the highlight of  the year for our team. We now take time to “run away with God together” each year. Retreating together has marked our team – and in a beautiful way.


The benefits of team retreats are great. Spending time away together has allowed our team to move to deeper levels of relationship with one another than we can possibly achieve in the busyness of daily life. It has allowed us to refine our musical techniques, to learn more about being worship leaders, to learn new music, and to have extended worship “labs” as we spend large amounts of time simply worshiping together. Retreats have given us opportunities to relax together, laugh together, have lengthy conversations and healthy competition and make memories that we will remember the rest of our lives – and that will hopefully cement our relationships into old age.  As we retreat, we are able to completely disconnect from the stress of daily life and come together to worship, to encourage, to play, to pray and to laugh. And we go home changed.

At each retreat I focus on achieving three main purposes in our time together:

1) I focus on helping my team grow in their personal relationship with Christ, thus growing in their capacity as leaders of worship. To facilitate this we have lots of time set aside to simply worship together. I’ve used guest worship leaders and have enjoyed that the years it fit in our budget. For many of our team members it’s easier to express their worship physically in this smaller, safer group setting where it’s easy to get on our knees or even lay face down if we wish. We don’t limit our time so everyone has plenty of time to converse with and respond to God. Space is given to them for their own devotional time alone with God. We always have times of teaching and challenge related to personal spiritual growth as well.

2) I focus on helping my team grow technically as musicians and vocalists. We learn about five or six new songs each retreat, so it’s a great time to experiment, and to set the stage for the coming year. We work on technical issues that are harder to work on in a limited two hour rehearsal. We try new things, and enjoy having fun with the music without the pressure of an impending deadline to perform and be “on”.  We also have teaching  and learning exercises that helps us grow and develop in this area. It varies from year to year but is always a priority.

3) I focus on building  community within our team. I will admit that learning the music is the hook I used to first get people to agree to the retreats. Building community doesn’t seem imperative to most people – until they’ve experienced it, but deeper community has been the biggest result I have seen from our retreats. Those who have experienced our team retreats don’t want to miss another one and for most of them, the deepening of relationships and the chance to just soak in worship keep them coming back year after year. Learning music has just become our excuse to get away! This is probably my biggest area of gifting so I’ve been the most creative in this area – we play games, karaoke, I give out crazy awards, we do a banquet one night, I challenge them to share their hearts, express their appreciation and love for one another, and to actually go to someone and pray with them. We take communion together, have prayer partners and even done a hand washing in years past. Perhaps most memorable, however,  is the silly contest we have each year. We’ve written songs about being on the praise team and commercials for a new pastor (we’re in an interim period now) that have been hilarious. Creating just for fun gives us the freedom to try things and work together in ways we never would otherwise. We open the door for spouses to join us and when they do, they become even more dedicated to the ministry. The list could go on and on. The result has been astounding for us.  This group of friends has become a family.

So each February or March we head off to the mountains of Tennessee for a little more than 48 hours together and come back refreshed, inspired, and closer than ever.  It’s the biggest item in my budget. And it’s worth every penny. It centers and focuses us and reminds us in fresh ways why we do this thing we call worship ministry. This time away has become a true part of who we are as a team.

I encourage you to consider the idea of a team retreat for your worship ministry members this year, even if you start small. I’d be happy to answer your questions or give you ideas. As a worship minister, it’s a discipline I am committed to because I’ve seen the results. I believe it’s an investment with eternal dividends.

What about you? Share your best ideas for helping your team grow and develop together.

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  • http://www.theworshiparts.com Jay Sandifer

    Our team ‘retreated’ a few months back. What an awesome time of fellowship and connect-ed-ness…like youth camp…or something.

    It was a memorable experience to worship together [as a team] outside of the church…outside of performance….outside of ministry.

    We prayed together…ate together….and worshipped together….and most of all got to know each other a bit better.

    I believe it’s so imporatnt to build trust and respect in minstry…’get aways’ work really well for this!

    Do one….soon!

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  • Bill Rainey

    I’ve been on the praise team at The Brook working and worshiping with Jan for almost 8 years now, and I can definitely say the annual retreat is the highlight of the year! I’m not sure I could ever leave the team now even if I wanted to because I’d miss out on the retreat!!! ;-)

  • Alicia Renae

    I love retreats, camps, conferences,any social event that brings people together, to fellowship with each other….its great!! So I see the importance of it, but its been awfully difficult to relay that excitement to my team. I’m from a small church of about 150 members in Jamaica. Most of our musicians are outsourced and not official members of the church. We all have varying strengths in our faith. But it is my desire to see a greater unity within the team, and a unity formed by an equal passion in Christ coming from every member. I need advice as to how to create interest where there is disinterest. Are retreats necessary or are there other ways of creating that unity without having to get away for a couple days?

  • Bill Rainey

    Alicia,
    While there is nothing quite like a retreat, even simple gatherings like having dinner together one evening followed by some games will help the group grow closer! The key is spending quality time together; while movies are fun, they don’t allow the interaction that dining together or party games do!

  • http://www.aworshipfulheart.typepad.com Jan Owen

    Hi Alicia, as Bill pointed out there are simpler steps to building community – the key is to promote it as a core value and then give it importance and opportunity. I wrote a previous article on how a leader can build community with their team:

    http://www.theworshipcommunity.com/building-community/

    I will write again soon on things to help your team connect with one another. You certainly have more of a challenge if your musicians are not church members, so you can’t “mandate” certain events probably. I would advise you to share your heart, model it, encourage it, and then plan some small events to get you started. As people do it, they’ll learn the value of it. My first retreat was less than 24 hours long and not everyone went. As they’ve learned to enjoy it, the team has asked that it be longer and now we are gone about 2 1/2 days – because they appreciate it and value it now.

    Start small and stay steadfast and show why you think it’s important. Invite them over for dinner and do a “spiritual check” with some teaching/devotion. Have fun together – get together and just create together. Do something FOR them and show your appreciation, etc. Give them opps to appreciate one another as well.

    #1 piece of advice – we all have different cultures and situations, but be intentional in your leadership and it will bleed over to your team.

  • http://www.firroadcc.org Greg Churchwell

    I am sure this would be a great idea and I would love to do a worship team retreat. I am a part-time worship minister and have another job, so my time is limited. That, coupled with the fact that I am not very creative in that type of thing, makes it tough. I would love to hear what some of you have done for your retreats Feel free to e-mail me direct with details.

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  • http://www.aworshipfulheart.typepad.com Jan Owen

    I answered Greg’s questions via email, so please let me know if you have some specific questions you need help with, if you’d like to see some sample schedules, etc. I love to help people build community on their teams!

    • Nelson

      Please send me a sample schedule….nlmiller(at)cableone(dot)net

  • http://vjtraven.blogspot.com viju jeremiah traven

    Run away with your God is a great idea.

  • http://worsrev.blogspot.com/ Mezei Fery

    amazing worship leadres. cool many blessings

  • http://www.worship180.wordpress.com Harry Walls IV

    I really enjoyed this article. I am a big fan of this idea and have used retreats as a way to build community with my team. I love the concept of ‘running away with God’. That was really cool.

  • http://www.tomcottar.og tom cottar

    Jan,
    I’d LOVE to see some sample schedules, retreat ideas, etc. Can you email to tom(at)fbcpville(dot)org or have you posted them elsewhere?

    blessings!

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  • Luisa Rasmusse

    Me and my husband has now spent a year leading our church worship team, it has been a tough year for us we have our highs and lows, as a small church its not so easy because theres no back up mucisian when the main ones dont turn up, our instrument players are all youth people, some are still at school, some are now working but we are still trying to address the fact to them that they have to be worshippers before they joined the worship team, now we have stressed all ideas to try and bring this team together to connect with each other, they are good players and singers but they seemed too withdrawn from us their leaders no matter what we do to try and get them to talk to us about whats bothering them, its like just turning up to play for the service then go home they are not respecting us not respecting their callings as worship team members, its so hard for us to try and address anything anymore because they dont like praying they dont like worshipping during services and that i think its the big problem, anyways, i need your advise on this matter, we have one year on this ministry and I am praying to God to show us His will for the new year in how we can make a difference in this team….

  • http://www.aworshipfulheart.typepad.com jan owen

    Luisa, It sounds like you definitely have some challenges with your team and I can totally understand your frustration and disappointment. I’ve served at very small church plants before with NO musicians so I feel your pain. But your team can grow spiritually. It just may take some patience. Here are a few things to consider:

    1. Give it time. People take time to change. In the meantime, keep encouraging, showing love and modeling worship and investing in PEOPLE. Expect change to take time. While you’re doing some of the things below, make sure you are remembering birthdays, inviting people to dinner, having game nights, and most of all, living what you are teaching. They will learn from your example, not as much from what you say. So love love love – Jesus and others. And constantly encourage them (not berate!) that what they do is so important and that they ARE leaders of worship!

    2. Decide what your priorities as a team are and focus on those. Invite the team into the discussion as well. This is also a discussion you should have with your pastor. Maybe this idea of worship is all new to them. Keep teaching and modeling a life of worship and keep focusing on those priorities. It takes time to remake the DNA of a team. Don’t be afraid to ask people if they can agree with and line up with the team priorities.

    3. If you have to, have some hard conversations after you’ve done the above. If they really just cannot get on board, it might not be the best place of service for them. But I’d exhaust other options first because it almost sounds like they’ve just never been taught and perhaps need to learn to trust you. One year is not long, really.

    Stay encouraged! You have some great opportunities to teach with your life ahead of you. Gently but firmly shepherd your team. And always, always pray that God will tenderize hearts.

    Praying for you this morning.