Aaron Burden / Unsplash

At several points in the gospel, Jesus steps back from the crowds when some of his disciples think he should be responding to the urgent needs around him.

At the beginning of Mark, Jesus woke up early in the morning, before sunrise, and went off to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35). Simon and other disciples frantically searched for Jesus. When they found him, they informed him that everyone was looking for him. Jesus then decided to leave that place and go somewhere else (1:37-38).

Matthew 17 tells us that after spending six days with all the disciples, Jesus retreated to the top of a mountain with Peter, James and John, where the transfiguration took place. Afterward, Jesus returned to the crowds below and healed a boy who was demon-possessed.

Jesus’ example provides helpful guidance to congregational leaders who feel like they are caught in an endless cycle of busyness. What if getting away is essential to moving forward in ministry?

After the summer months, when everyone returns to their regular schedules, we will more than likely resume our busy routines. Programming makes us feel productive. But perhaps even during the peak seasons, our teams need to build in times to get away from the activity as part of a faithful plan to do work that honors God.

This is not a message about a weekly sabbath (which is still important!). Instead, this is about bringing our teams together to connect with each other and with God in meaningful ways. This is about disrupting our normal patterns to see new opportunities.

In addition, getting away together gives the team time to build trust. You will learn things about each other that are much harder to notice in the process of working remotely or working in separate spaces in the office. Step back from the work and ask bold questions about what God is calling you to do. Getting away might be the key to moving forward.


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Before you go…

I want to end this issue with a lesson I learned recently about how to make the most of planning and reflecting time with your team. After returning from a staff retreat, someone asked me how things went. I told them that it was the best staff development experience I’ve had in 24 years of ministry. Surprised by my answer, they asked me what made me feel that way. Without hesitation, I said it was largely due to the people in the room. Everyone showed up ready to be fully engaged in prayer, worship, and planning. People shared ideas openly and accepted feedback graciously. Everyone wanted to be there.

The agenda certainly matters. But when you decide to get away, be sure the right people are going with you.

You can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading! 

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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