The EFC-MAYM Pastor’s Sabbath Retreat was birthed over 15 years ago in an effort to provide a safe and sacred space for pastors and their families to experience an extended period of physical rest, spiritual renewal, and vocational realignment. The primary goal is to alleviate the impact of pastoral stress and burnout and equip spiritual leaders for effective, lifelong ministry in and through the body of Christ. A theme passage for this annual gathering is taken from Matthew 11:28-29 (MSG):
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
According to a recent study conducted by the Barna Research Group in October of 2021, over 1/3 of the Protestant pastors they interviewed indicated that they had given serious consideration to leaving vocational ministry during the past year. In an informal survey with our own Evangelical Friends pastors here in Mid America conducted in November of 2021, over 1/4 indicated the same was true for them as well.
With this reality in mind, the theme for this year’s Sabbath retreat is Help for the Helper: Survival Skills for Pastoral Leaders, based on 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
This year’s retreat will be held April 1-4, 2022, at Shepherd of the Ozarks Christian Conference and Retreat Center near Harriet, Arkansas. Main sessions will be led by our retreat facilitators, Tony and Stacey Wheeler. Tony and Stacey recently accepted an invitation to serve together as Directors of Pastoral and Church Health for EFC-MAYM. In this role, they have the privilege of coming alongside our pastors and their families by providing confidential counseling and compassionate care, especially during times of acute crisis. Tony and Stacey co-founded Wheeler Ministries to provide help and hope for individuals, couples, families, and church leadership teams.
This year’s retreat venue, Shepherd of the Ozarks, provides an ideal location for rest and renewal. Nestled in 460 acres of scenic wilderness in northwest Arkansas, the natural beauty of the Ozark Mountains is complemented by massive rock fireplaces, rocking chairs on the porch and comfortable beds in log cabin-style lodges that invite each guest to come away for refreshment and relaxation. It is hard to imagine a better place to “waste time with God.”
Along with the rest of our leadership team, I want to urge every one of our churches throughout Mid America to do all they can to help their pastors make this year’s Sabbath Retreat among the highest priorities in their spring schedules. More than ever, our pastors are in critical need of physical rest, spiritual renewal and vocational realignment, a three-legged stool that church leaders and health care professionals continually affirm as an essential base for sustaining the overall health and well-being of every caregiver serving on the front lines of soul care, and no one plays a more crucial role in this battle than our pastors and their families.
Registration for this year’s retreat will open February 1, 2022. Financial assistance is available for those who may need it, and child care will be provided upon request. Please note that the final day for registration, including payment, is March 1, 2022.