I spent three days recently at a cabin with five other pastors, holding what we call a Roundtable. I’m from California. We met in Illinois, where it blizzarded one day and the temperature hit negative seven one night. I didn’t care. What we were doing was so important we didn’t need to go outside. We do this every year. We plan to continue doing it until our last days of ministry.
Here’s why I’m involved in a roundtable:
1. These guys inspire me.
They’re my friends, all are pastors, and seeing how they live out their commitment to God inspires me. There aren’t too many people who do what we do. One of the guys lost his wife and best friend to cancer in the same year. Another adopted and is raising four high-risk children. A third runs triathlons. All of them are devoted to their wives and to walking in close quarters with Christ. During dark seasons in my ministry, I think of them and it boosts my determination to keep going.
2. We improve each other’s churches.
As part of his evangelism system, Jim Nicodem hosts “Wow Weekends” two or three times a year. He interviews a high-profile guest during the message portion of the service. The “Wow” factor of having such a guest provides a big incentive for church members to invite friends. Since learning this strategy, I’ve hosted a former Mafioso, a former terrorist, a world champion surfer, and a paraplegic tri-athlete. On each of these weekends, hundreds or thousands of guests have come through our doors. On each of the weekends, dozens have come to Christ. They don’t all stick, but they now know that we exist and what we have to offer. I doubt I would have ever thought of “Wow Weekends” on my own.
Glenn Gunderson has a way he prepares sermons that includes a gripping video clip or two in every message. My preaching improved when I learned his system.
One of the issues I’m facing right now is how to structure my staff. Rob Bugh is a genius at this. During a drive to dinner he gave me some great suggestions on how to create better lines of support and supervision.
3. We talk about trends.
This year we spent extensive time talking through our responses to the homosexual movement as it relates to the local church. As a result, I’m both more compassionate and better informed. John Jackson supplied some resources and Bryan Wilkerson supplied some perspective that truly helped me.
Rob is something of an expert on Muslim evangelism. He filled us in on the amazing things the Lord is doing to introduce them to Jesus. Wow! Just, wow!
Two years ago, I filled my friends in on what God is doing on the internet via Global Media Outreach (GMO). GMO led 19 million people to Christ that year, using local church members to disciple them. My friends are all pretty-well informed, but none of them had heard of this fresh approach to global outreach. Last year I told them about The Issachar Initiative. My friend Paul Eshleman (creator of The Jesus Film), has brought together all the elements and institutions necessary to evangelize the 446 remaining Unengaged Unreached People Groups of the world over the next decade. We all need to know about this as well.
4. We share resources.
Every year we spend a session sharing our best sermon series. My toolbox of ideas expands. Glenn always brings a DVD packed with his best videos of the year. We invest an evening laughing through them and then get links to the ones we want to use in our own services.
Rob brings articles on relevant topics. John emails links to videos. This year, I shared our new “New Song app,” that enables our people to register, give, and submit prayer requests electronically. Over the years, every one of us has brought books and brochures that have helped take each of our churches to higher levels. (If you’re interested, you can point your mobile device to www.newsong-app.com and download, imitate, or admire our app there.)
5. We learn about books.
We use the first dinner of the week to catch up on our families. During the second dinner, we talk about books and movies. I’m not much of a movie-goer, so I’ve learned to let the others “screen” movies for me. The ones they rave about are the ones I’ll rent this year. But I love books, and these guys are readers. They read things I wouldn’t normally expose myself to. Every year, I come home with a list of “must reads,” that’s longer than I can tackle. Nicodem loves history. So do I. I turned him on to Spurgeon’s biography last year. This year he told me about a library of Spurgeon’s sermons he’s been going through with his staff. For pastors, this is true “iron sharpening iron.”
6. We help each other.
John introduced me to his publisher. Glenn has helped promote the movie we produced a few years ago: To Save a Life. My book, The God Questions has become a best-seller, so they all want to know how to do that. The Bible Questions has been picked up by a publisher in India. They want to know how to do that as well. These results have more to do with God’s grace than my ability, but I’ve done what I can to help on the book-writing front.
7. We pray for each other.
We spend our first few hours together catching up on our wives and children. I’ve never met most of them, but I feel like I know them well. For me, catching up on their growth and victories year after year is one of the richest experiences of the roundtable.
I’ll attend a conference or two this year. I’ll come home exhilarated and exhausted from the adrenaline generated there. In contrast, I come home from the Roundtable relaxed and refreshed.
Every pastor needs a group to huddle with on an annual basis. It doesn’t take much: a few friends (in churches of similar size is best), a few days, a cabin somewhere, and an agenda that meets your needs.
What do you think? How have retreats with other pastors helped you?
Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA. Hal mentors pastors to lead healthy, growing churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.
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