If you’re scratching your head trying to remember your last retreat, it was probably too long ago. Leaders in every capacity face challenges that require wisdom and deplete reserves. Regularly getting away for focused time with God is a Christ-like habit worth forming.

I was five or six years into full-time ministry when the fabric of my life started to fray. Call it stress, call it fatigue, call it time crunch – it was all of those and more. I had time to seek the Lord personally, but not for ministry matters. I occasionally read books, but not nearly to the degree I desired. I craved an extended period where God and I could interact on issues of life and ministry.

When I sought the counsel of a few seasoned leaders, to a person they recommended regular retreat days to hole up with God. They suggested all kinds of possible components, but I’ll never forget what one pastor said. “Lisa, whatever you do, don’t try to overproduce in those days. If you get tired mid-afternoon, take a nap for goodness’ sake!”

Ha – did he ever read me right! I was already picturing how much visioning and planning I could cram into two whole days away from the office. Thanks to his advice, on my first retreat when yawns came more frequently than good ideas, I took a snooze smack dab in the middle of the day.

Criteria for Planning & Taking Retreats

1. Length and frequency. Assess the season you and your ministry are in, and determine what degree of “retreating” is needed for the sake of the ministry’s health and momentum.

2. Board approval. Share your rationale and plan with your board, and ask them to weigh in on the concept and give their blessing.

3. Staff coverage. Explain the retreat’s purpose to your staff and adjust project flow to accommodate your time away.

4. Commitment. In the days leading up to a retreat, it can be tempting to skip it because of the mountain of work on your desk. Remain steadfast in getting away.

5. Reporting. Afterwards, write up a brief summary of your retreat for the board, including insights you’ve gleaned for various aspects of the ministry.

3 Basics of a Personal Retreat

So there you are at Beautiful Lake Retreat Center. Your bags are unpacked and you’re ready to go. Instead… pause, drink in your surroundings, and ask the Lord to direct your steps. That’s the key to every retreat (and actually every work day) – being led by God’s Spirit as you put your hand to the plow.

1. Prayer. Connecting with God is the primary reason you’re on the retreat, so follow His lead in prayer, Bible study, and worship. Keep the relational aspect prominent, instead of being with God in order to make headway for the ministry.

2. Planning. All good planning flows from God – whose thoughts and ways are greater than ours. So allow visionary thoughts and strategic plans to naturally follow your communion with God. For instance, He may download a great plan while you’re worshiping or while you’re reading a seemingly unrelated passage of Scripture.

3. Partying. Alliteration aside, there is God-designed purpose in kicking back and relaxing. God Himself took a full day to rest. Explore and enjoy your new surroundings – even if it’s snowy or raining outside. Observe the sights and take pictures with your phone or camera. Do a creative project indoors. Jesus invites us to come to Him and find rest for our souls.

Over the past 25 years, there’s never been a year that I haven’t taken a personal retreat. Typically, there are several a year, and they often involve an overnight. As our ministry has grown, they’ve included members of our leadership team which broadens discernment. Offsite retreats keep you on track with your loving Father and His wisdom for your ministry.

“Offsite retreats keep you on track with your loving Father and His wisdom for your ministry.”

- Lisa Hosler

What’s a benefit you’ve reaped from personal retreats? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

As relentless as leadership demands are, wise leaders follow Jesus’ example of “walking away from it all” to be with their Father. Whether it’s several days at the beginning or end of the year, a day each quarter, or something else – a rhythm of spiritual refueling and retooling is vital to healthy leadership. Let’s extend that privilege to our entire staff – leaders in their own right.

How God Led Us to Incorporate Paid Staff Retreats

Paid staff retreats were a natural progression of the paradigm of corporate worship, prayer, and relational community God ushered into our ministry several decades ago.

Not that its progression always felt natural or normal or right!

When God first prompted us to honor Him through active worship and prayer at our ministry, I chafed at the amount of time it was taking. Shouldn’t we do this on our own time, or Sunday mornings at church? And weren’t our financial partners giving money so we could do the work of the ministry, not sit around praising God?!

We came to realize that although our staff didn’t gather together on a Sunday morning, we were still members of God’s family – designed to connect with Him even in the work setting.

As God matured the paradigm, He led us to add a season of worship and prayer to our monthly staff meetings.  We soon extended those half-day meetings to full days twice a year. We called them “Space & Pace Days” with a primary purpose of engaging with God and each other through worship, prayer, focusing on a current spiritual theme within the ministry, and one-on-one time to reflect with God.

Those one-on-one times with God became so valuable that we added Personal Space & Pace Days” to our annual schedule of staff meetings. Twice a year or so, we pay our staff to go offsite to be with the Lord. There’s no set agenda, no expectations – just the freedom to spend the day with our heavenly Father in whatever way the Spirit leads.

5 Reasons to Pay Your Staff to Retreat with God

1. It puts teeth to your God-honoring culture – demonstrating your commitment to provide a work environment with scheduled opportunities for spiritual growth. 

2. It honors employees as children of God who benefit from extended time with their Father, instead of inadvertently viewing them as “commodities” who solely do the work of the ministry.

3. Ministry work can be exhausting. Built-in times with God bring much-needed replenishment and restoration.

4. Paying your employees to spend the day with God provides them with an opportunity and a responsibility to intentionally connect with God. The fact that it’s a work day wards off typical distractions.

5. The money spent to provide retreat days yields dividends of spiritual vitality within staff members that can’t be measured in typical ROI metrics.

At our ministry, Personal Space & Pace Days are among the most treasured days of the year. We regularly receive feedback from staff about how meaningful these times are to them.

One staffer emailed, “Thank you so much for allowing us to have a day to be with God. Of everything we do to connect with God at the ministry, this is the most special to me. I had never spent a full day with God like this before, and now it’s something I do other times too. God always meets with me and speaks to my heart.”

As you consider ways to honor God within the culture of your ministry, consider paid retreat days. When you give your staff a paid day to be with Jesus, you’re blessing them and you’re honoring God.”

“When you give your staff a paid day to be with Jesus, you’re blessing them and you’re honoring God.”

- Lisa Hosler

How do you foster connection with God within the ministry where you serve? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

Abiding with Christ – that elusive lifestyle many of us talk about and few of us walk out. If there’s an antonym for abiding it’s probably striving. Strive means: to try hard to do something or make something happen, especially for a long time or against difficulties. Yep, that can describe me and most leaders I know. Surely abiding is the better way. And what if a secret to abiding was right under our noses?

There was something right under my husband Ron’s nose a few years ago. It was his 50th birthday, and I planned a pseudo party and a surprise party on the same night. First we met a few close friends for an early dinner at Outback. Then we headed home. I had ants in my pants, knowing what was in store. Ron had steak in his stomach and anticipated a snooze on the sofa. Instead, when he opened the door he was bombarded with cheers and laughter and birthday greetings from three dozen friends! Flashes of shock, confusion, surprise, and joy spread across his face. It was awesome.

When it comes to abiding with Jesus, we can be a lot like Ron on the night of his party. The reality is right in front of us, but we haven’t tuned into it. Jesus is the reality, and when we’ve accepted Him, He is powerfully present with us – His Spirit living within us – at all times.

The Message version of John 15:4 says, “Live in Me. Make your home in Me just as I do in you.

“Just as I do in you.” Of course we know this, but Jesus is emphasizing, “I am always abiding with you. I am always present, indwelling you, making My home in you.”

Fresh Perspective on Abiding

1. Right now, and always, Jesus is abiding with us.

2. In this very moment, He is present in all of His love, power, and wisdom – in all of His goodness and God-ness.

3. Abiding with Jesus is as simple as opening the eyes of our hearts to these realities.

Sometimes abiding can feel like a spiritual burden, something we almost strive to achieve. But Jesus has already done the heavy lifting by abiding with us. Just like we love Him because He first loved us, we abide with Him because He’s first abiding with us. So our part is to turn toward Him, to reciprocate, and to experience a treasure trove of blessings.

8 Blessings of Abiding from John 15

1. A mutual love-exchange with Jesus and the Father.

2. An extension of that love into your relationships with others.

3. An experience of oneness with our Trinity-God.

4. An alignment of our will with the Father’s, through obedience.

5. Access to an outworking of the Father’s will in our lives.

6. Continuous spiritual nourishment and strength.

7. Lives that bear much lasting fruit.

8. Experiencing the fullness of Jesus’ joy.

Along with these blessings, Jesus presents a jarring truth in John 15:5b, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” As lone ranger leaders who work hard to achieve and accomplish, that statement alone should stop us in our striving tracks. Abiding with Jesus is a life-giving necessity. Walking solo is life-sapping naivety.

“Abiding with Jesus is a life-giving necessity. Walking solo is life-sapping naivety.”

– Lisa Hosler

“Father, help us to open the eyes of our hearts to the presence of Jesus with us and His power within us – all through the day.”

What helps you to abide with Jesus? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

Preparing for the next big event is a given for leaders. Whether it’s a department meeting, a staff gathering, or a workshop at a conference – something is always right around the corner. Leaders strive for excellence, but striving can lead to over-preparing. And too much preparation can be counterproductive. Let’s find out why.

Years ago I accepted an invitation to help with a women’s retreat. I expected the leader to come to the first meeting with an outline of rough ideas. Instead, she came with a blank tablet. She said, “Since God knows best how this retreat should flow, let’s start by asking Him.” I was quietly aghast. Oh my word, I thought to myself. She did absolutely no planning for this retreat. What kind of leader would come to a meeting totally unprepared?!

A good leader, it turned out. She led us to pray about the various facets of the retreat, and she took notes as we prayed. It was the most effortless planning I’d ever experienced. When the retreat took place, it was filled with God’s leading, ease, and in-the-moment ministry to the women.

Fast forward to a recent gathering where I was asked to share on a particular topic. The meeting was already in process and there was no time to prepare. I panicked a bit as I tried to think of a few wise, wonderful things to say. Nothing. I got nothing.

Then I quickly asked God what I should say, and He led me to invite each person to discern God’s perspective on the topic. Nearly everyone had something to share. There was a broad spectrum of insight – far greater than what I could’ve come up with on my own.    

5 Reasons Over-Preparing Is Counterproductive

1. It’s burdensome. When you carry the weight of the event apart from others’ input or prayer, and apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading – you’re bearing a burden you were never meant to.

2. It’s a time-stealer. The world won’t rise or fall on this particular assignment, and you don’t want to short-change your other responsibilities. Pace yourself and trust God to fill in any gaps.

3. It stifles valuable input. When you do the lion’s share of prep in advance, you’ll tend to dominate planning meetings and squelch others’ insights. The fullness of God’s wisdom can’t come forth.

4. It produces too much content. Invariably, too much preparation leads to too much material. So when you’re sharing, you rush to fit it all in. This can be stressful for your audience. They need time to breathe, interact, and digest the information.

5. It crowds out the Holy Spirit. Crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” can squeeze the Holy Spirit right out of the process. Preparing moderately allows the Holy Spirit to have His say throughout your presentation or event.

Call it striving for excellence, call it overachieving, or call it aiming to impress – over-preparation is often a recipe for stress for you and the people around you.

As I planned three sessions for a women’s retreat recently, I sensed this soft admonition from the Lord, “Don’t over-prepare. Some of the content will come through My Spirit in the moment. Less allows for more.” Preparing in moderation gives Christ and the body of believers a place at the table for a more bountiful feast.

“Preparing in moderation gives Christ and the body of believers a place at the table for a more bountiful feast.”

- Lisa Hosler

How do you resist the temptation to over-prepare? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

Being intentional is inborn for most leaders. We dream big, plan hard, and make tough calls. But along the way, stress mounts and blood pressure rises. God designed us to be purposeful, but He never meant for us to go it alone. Let’s learn to intentionally engage with God in the midst of our packed days.

Recently I faced a meeting that was wrought with challenges. As I relived the events leading up to it, my heart rate increased. My shoulders tensed as I reviewed my notes. The meeting hadn’t even started and I was already in high gear.

I consciously began to think about and talk with God. “Father, this meeting is a big deal, but You are bigger – Lord of the Universe. I’m stressed; You’re at peace. I choose to trust You.” God shifted my thoughts. When I deliberately focused on Him, He reassured me of His presence. I jotted His simple, profound words on a post-it note, “I am with you, Lisa.” And He was – straight through the meeting.

10 Steps to Intentionally Connect with Christ

1. Choose to draw near to God.

2. Assess your thoughts and emotions.

3. Speak to God about what’s going on.

4. Praise Him for who He is.

5. Ask for His perspective.

6. Realign your thoughts with God’s.

7. Reflect on His truth; jot it down.  

8. Speak God’s truth against any lies from the enemy.

9. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

10. Stand in Him, stand in truth, stand in peace.

An age-old question for leaders is what our relationship with God should look like – how long and how frequently should we connect with Him in any given day. If we were to ask Jesus, I imagine Him responding like he did when Peter asked how often he should forgive others. I picture Him saying to us, “70 times 7. Intentionally connect with Me all throughout the day.”

Most of us have good intentions about connecting with God. We mean well, we love Him, we need Him, and we desire to have a vibrant relationship with Him. The best intentionality is when we choose to commune with Him all day long. That’s what He longs for too.

“We have good intentions about connecting with God. The best intentionality is when we choose to commune with Him all day long.”

- Lisa Hosler

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 2:2

Fixing your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”

Hebrews 12:2a

“Live in Me. Make your home in Me just as I do in you.”

John 15:4a

How do you stay connected with God through a busy work day? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

A temptation for leaders is to run ahead, make tracks, and accomplish vision. While leaders should lead, the best way to do so is by following the True Alpha Leader.

My husband and I are dog lovers, we both have strong personalities, and we somehow always manage to pick the Alpha of the litter. Our efforts to teach our first dog, a yellow lab, the meaning of the word heel were interpreted by her as: “I will leave the two of you way behind my heels!”

Our second dog, a standard poodle, was even smarter at redefining the word heel. To her it meant, “I am the queen of the world and I will say how fast and how far ahead of you guys I will run!” And run she did. Like the wind. It was exhilarating to watch her. Except when she ran off the edge of a cliff (literally), or leaped over a flower garden and landed on a lawnmower, or raced after a waddling black critter on the trail ahead of us who had a white stripe on its back. Yes it was a skunk and yes she got sprayed.

I can be a lot like our dogs. I run ahead in my mind. I picture the future. I plan out scenarios. But you know, in 30 years my solo ponderings have seldom produced what I envisioned.

Take the Alpha Leader Quiz

1. Do you run ahead in your mind, most often apart from discerning prayer?

2. As you picture the future, do you find yourself worrying?

3. Do you go at a fast clip, often hurried and harried?

4. Do you pray on the fly, giving shout-outs to God and occasional cries for help?

5. Are your efforts rooted in self, instead of being birthed by God and for His glory?

If you responded with three or more yeses, you may have a few Alpha leader tendencies.

But there’s only one True Alpha Leader. His name is Jesus Christ. He says of Himself in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega… the Beginning and the End.” He’s the beginning of all vision in your ministry, the sustainer of forward motion, and His glory is the end goal.

How to Follow the True Alpha Leader

1. Pray first. Early on in the visioning process, pray extensively. As good as your vision may seem, God’s version of it will be best.

2. Wait. Have a listening, waiting posture as you align yourself with your Leader. Keep your eyes and ears open to Him.

3. Obey. Once you’ve heard from God through prayer and the Word, follow His leading as you enact His strategy.

4. Pray continuously. You could think of this like “heeling” – staying right beside God and looking up to Him for further direction and clarification as you proceed.

5. Give God glory. Jesus lived and died for His Father’s glory. As your mission is accomplished and lives are impacted, intentionally give honor to the True Leader. 

As leaders, we see the future, we see the potential, and we’re off and running. But while running ahead of God seems faster, following God is fruitful.

“Running ahead of God seems faster, but following God is fruitful.” 

- Lisa Hosler

What steps have you taken to follow God’s lead and keep pace with Him? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

We’ve all heard the adage, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The meaning is obvious. Non-stop work is counterproductive and detrimental. While God certainly calls us to work, He also calls us to play. In fact He designed us that way. And He instituted it at the dawn of Creation.

Genesis 2:2 finds God resting on the seventh day of creation. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for rest does mean “to cease from exertion,” but it also means “to celebrate, to be still.” In the theatre of my mind I see the Father, Son, and Spirit whooping it up in a jubilant dance and perhaps sitting around a campfire savoring the sunset.  

Do you rest? Do you celebrate? Do you play?

Several years ago I took a sabbatical near a river and fell in love with waterfowl. I became enamored with each species’ unique characteristics and had a blast watching their antics. I found myself marveling at God’s creative genius. I found myself resting. And post-sabbatical, I found myself in need of birds!

So I set up a few feeders near our picture window at home. Two years later, I’m still entertained by these feathered masterpieces. Like the way a Black-capped Chickadee zips in for a seed and flits off to a nearby branch to chip away at it, or the way a Nuthatch skitters up and down a vertical branch like a lizard, or the way a Junko wipes its beak back and forth against a tiny branch after a meal, or the way a Red-bellied Woodpecker turns into a contortionist to extract food.

The point isn’t bird-watching – although it’s a great hobby – the point is, what do you regularly do that awakens playfulness and delight within your spirit?

5 Benefits of Play

1. Rest. Engaging in playful recreation brings reprieve to your work-weary mind and body.

2. Rejuvenation. Fun activities stimulate fresh thoughts and positive emotions.

3. Enjoyment. Experiencing pleasure is not ungodly. If it was, God would’ve made food tasteless and the world colorless. By God’s design, interesting pastimes are good for our souls.

4. Equilibrium. If your work-world tends to dwarf the rest of your world – rest and play will bring balance and diminish stress. 

5. Expansion. You’ll think new thoughts, discover increased creativity, and experience more space in your day.

When the disciples returned from a full day of ministry, Jesus didn’t pat them on the back and send them off on their next assignment. He invited them to do the opposite.

“‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” (Mark 6:31)

Come away. Leave busyness behind. Find a quiet place. Experience the ease of leisure. Rest.

Think about it – “All work and no play” wasn’t even Jesus’ way. If anyone could have conjured up the energy to work 24/7, it was Jesus. But He functioned according to the rhythms of heaven – working and resting in keeping with His Father.

“‘All work and no play’ wasn’t even Jesus’ way. Check out Mark 6:31.”

- Lisa Hosler

In the Comment Section below, share the benefits you enjoy from your favorite hobby or non-work activity.

I’ve been reading John 13-17 for the past few weeks, and here’s an amazing truth the Spirit highlighted to me recently:

It’s a single word from John 13:1 –

“Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.”

Did you catch it?

Jesus’ description of where He was going wasn’t heaven, or His heavenly home, or eternity.

It was “Father.”

He was going to be with a Person, not so much going to a place.

The entirety of Jesus’ orientation was unto His Father. He longed to be back in face-to-face fellowship with Him.

This is our best orientation too. Our salvation is relational—we’re drawn by the Spirit, saved by Jesus, born of God—living in Trinity intimacy. Our destination is the Father.

Both on earth and in heaven, our core orientation and primary relationship is with our Father.


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