Thousands of LCMS ordained and commissioned ministers and their spouses have found renewal, refreshment, at a Grace Place Wellness retreat.
A life in ministry can be tremendously rewarding and exhilarating. It can also be incredibly demanding and stressful. For more than two decades, Grace Place Wellness has offered depleted church workers the encouragement and resources necessary to reclaim the joy of ministry.
Grounded in the gospel of grace, our retreats review the common causes of spiritual, relational, and vocational anxiety that nearly always accompany a life in ministry. At a Grace Place retreat, you’ll review the biblically based, Christ-centered Lutheran Wellness Wheel as a guide to assessing your own wellness and begin to discover the Lord’s gracious gifts of restoration and renewal in Word and Sacrament.
Gathered with other couples and single church workers in a comfortable resort setting, you’ll experience mornings of growth and reflection led by our experienced staff, afternoons totally free for recreation, private time, rest and renewal, and evenings to gather around uplifting group activities. Along the way, you’ll discover that self-care for the sake of Christ’s mission is not selfish, but rather a way for caregivers to “put their own oxygen masks on first” before they offer themselves in loving service to others.
Conversations around the table with peers in ministry focus on the eight aspects of wellness around the Lutheran Wellness Wheel: baptismal, spiritual, relational, intellectual, emotional, vocational, physical, and financial. You’ll be guided to assess your personal and family wellness and begin to design a wellness plan for the areas of your life that need the Lord’s healing grace. Retreat participants will be introduced to our many practical resources, developed with LCMS church workers in mind. We’ll also discuss how to bring the wellness theme home so that your church and school ministries can be environments where called workers and lay leaders flourish as they strive together in ministry in unity, peace, and joy.
For dates, locations and cost for a retreat, click here.
What is a Grace Place Retreat?
A Grace Place Wellness Retreat is an opportunity for church workers in the LCMS and their spouses to Reflect, Restore and Reinvigorate for renewed energy and joy in ministry. It’s a retreat in the purest sense of the word: a real break from the hectic and stressful ministry lifestyle and time to rest in God’s good grace. At a Grace Place Wellness Retreat, you will Reflect on God’s design for your health and wellness, Restore your body and soul through rest, worship and fellowship and Reinvigorate for a return to ministry with a plan for a healthier lifestyle back home.
Who attends Grace Place Wellness Retreats?
All church workers and spouses of the LCMS are invited to attend our retreats. Pastors, educators, DCE’s, deaconesses, parish nurses, musicians and others participate in our retreats every year.
Why do people attend Grace Place Wellness Retreats?
We’re a preventive wellness ministry, focused on keeping church workers at their best. Grace Place Wellness Retreats are focused on teaching God’s kingdom workers to care for themselves and their families so that they can better care for those they serve. Some attend a retreat to learn healthier practices, such as diet and exercise. Some attend to work on their relationship at home, marriage and family or the relationships found in congregational life. Some attend to renew their worship and devotional life and to strengthen their relationship with God in Christ. Others attend just to experience a pause point in the often frantic lifestyle of ministry. Everyone seems to experience the retreat in their own personal way.
Is Grace Place Wellness a therapeutic program for church workers experiencing burnout?
No. Grace Place is a preventive wellness ministry, teaching healthy workers how to manage stress and how to consistently experience the joy of ministry. Church workers in crisis because of stress or burnout, or because of a severely strained marriage are encouraged to consider the ministry of Shepherd’s Canyon Retreats, an RSO of the LC-MS. Shepherd’s Canyon offers a retreat program of intensive counseling for church work couples afflicted with burnout, marital anxiety, substance abuse or other maladies common to those in our calling.
Where are Grace Place Wellness Retreats held?
Grace Place Wellness is not a location, but a ministry, part of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s Ministry Solutions division. Our retreats are held at resorts and conference centers at scenic locations around the country. We look for first class accommodations in a setting that offers refreshing activities and recreational opportunities in every corner of America. Many of our retreats are sponsored by the geographic districts of the synod and are held in their region. The “Grace Place” is wherever we can gather with the Lord’s people and retreat together! We are always interested in coming to new regions of the country and are actively pursuing the funding that would make that possible! Check the booking link above for this year’s retreat locations.
What is the typical schedule at a retreat?
Our weeklong retreats begin around 3:00 on Mondays and conclude Fridays at noon. Our day centers around the Daily Office with four brief times of devotion before breakfast, at noon and supper time and at the end of the day. We follow morning devotion with a light stretching/exercise program suitable for all fitness levels. Mornings are used as instructional time. Afternoons are completely free for rest, adventure, reflection, or relationship time, as each couple determines for themselves! After the evening meal, fellowship activities are often a part of the close of the day.
What is taught at a Grace Place Wellness Retreat?
Our instructional model is The Lutheran Wellness Wheel developed with the input of Grace Place Wellness staff by the LCMS Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support. The central teaching of the Wellness Wheel is the Baptismal Wellness granted us in the New Creation of God’s Grace and the Spiritual Wellness we experience through God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament. The retreat then explores how children of God experience His healing grace in Relational, Intellectual, Emotional, Vocational, Physical and Financial Wellness. Each participant leaves the retreat with a fresh awareness of their own need for healing and the beginnings of a wellness plan for that aspect of healthy, balanced living that they choose to work on through post-retreat disciplines.
What is the worship like at a retreat?
Daily devotional times are based on the Daily Office in Lutheran Service Book and utilize the rich heritage of Christian music and hymnody from past and present. Martin Luther’s form of Lection Divina is taught and experienced during the half hour Morning Prayer, guiding participants through times of prayer (oratio), meditation (meditatio) and struggle/application (tentatio). Noontime, evening and close of day devotions follow a simpler, briefer format. When offered as part of the retreat, the Thursday evening Divine Service is hosted by a congregation of the LC-MS and follows the establish practice of our church body.
What’s the cost of a retreat?
The “actual cost” of a retreat is approximately $2000-2800 per couple for any given retreat week and covers lodging, meals, and program. However, through grants and generous donations of individuals and foundations, the out-of-pocket expense is dramatically reduced for the church worker, representing a gift of care and love for our professional church workers. The cost to attend a retreat can vary depending upon its location and district sponsorship. Often, where District grants help fund the retreat, the registration fee for couples is $300 – $600 for the week. Please check our retreat schedule for a list of retreats and pricing. Participants must provide for their own transportation to the retreat site.
Who leads the retreats?
Since 2012, Rev. Dr. Darrell Zimmerman and his wife Carol have led Grace Place Wellness Retreats in the U.S and in foreign mission fields. The Zimmerman’s attended the first Grace Place retreat in 1999. Darrell served in parish ministry for 30 years in Missouri and Michigan. The Rev. Dr. Greg Walton, until recently the Florida-Georgia District President, has recently joined the LCEF staff as VP/Grace Place Wellness. He and his wife Edith will be leading future retreats.
What can we do to prepare for the retreat?
We strongly encourage clergy couples to read and reflect together on our primary resource, “Reclaiming the Joy of Ministry: The Grace Place Way to Clergy Wellness,” and commissioned ministers and spouses, “Reclaiming the Joy of a Church Vocation: The Way to Wellness for the Non-Ordained in Church and School Ministries.” Copies are available through the website for $9.99. Click here.
How did Grace Place get started?
In his medical practice in St. Louis, Dr. John Eckrich served many of the vast number of Lutheran pastors and educators and their families. He also served as the campus doctor for Concordia Seminary, and his office was down the street from the International Center in Kirkwood. Over the years he was amazed by the high incidence of stress related illness among Lutheran church work professionals. Recognizing the great potential for Lutheran congregations to be places of wellness and healing but frustrated by the widespread incapacity of pastors and other workers in the church to care for themselves, he and his wife, along with Lutheran friends and supporters from across the synod, hosted the first Grace Place Wellness Retreat in Aspen, Colorado in the fall of 2000. Believing that “healthy workers lead healthy congregations,” Dr. Eckrich started Grace Place Wellness Ministries as a part-time effort. He left his medical practice in 2006 to lead the ministry fulltime. For many years an RSO of the LCMS, Grace Place Wellness is now part of LCEF’ Ministry Solutions Division.
How can Grace Place help us transfer our experience back to parish life?
Grace Place Wellness resources will be discussed at the retreat with a focus on their practical guidance for finding renewal and refreshment in every area of life. Resources include our widely popular books, “Reclaiming the Joy of Ministry” and the companion Wellness Workbook Series for further exploration on any of the eight aspects of wellness. The Grace Place Congregational Wellness Weekend is a 10 hour weekend retreat experience for staff and lay leaders that can be conducted by our staff at your ministry site and intended to help you and your leadership create the best possible ministry environment for the church’s workers. We initiate a conversation between called and lay leaders around the wellness principles taught at the retreat so you can begin to explore how healthy workers benefit the entire congregation and its mission to the community. For larger, staff-led congregations and schools, we offer the Grace Place Ministry Team Wellness Retreat. Contact our staff for further details.