coupleBy Elizabeth Young

When 430 people gathered at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Tucson July 23-25 for the Pastors and Wives Retreat, God showed up, said Keith Henry, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention ministry leadership facilitator. The retreat, hosted by Arizona Southern Baptists, was the first statewide Pastors and Wives Retreat held in 15 years.

“I think God did something special, and we were blessed to be part of it,” Henry said.

AZSBC Executive Director David Johnson agreed.

“The Pastors and Wives Retreat exceeded all of our expectations,” he said. “Our goal was for pastors to relax and be refreshed and to really connect with other pastors and wives and build relationships. I believe all of those things happened.”

From the very beginning at registration — with a large goody basket for each couple, a gift bag for each wife, a list of restaurants and an envelope with cash for Friday night out — the message was sent that Arizona Southern Baptist pastors and wives are highly valued and a truly special time had been planned for them.

“We were trying to create a retreat environment rather than a seminar environment, and I think we did that,” Henry said. “The weight of ministry was lifted for a time. Relationships were formed.”

In each session, Charles Lowery, a psychologist and former pastor, spoke with humor packed with an inspirational punch, and Austin Ryan and Worship Catalyst led in worship through music.

“The highlight of the entire retreat was the worship time that we had on Saturday morning when we were able to pray together, pray for each other and share with each other about our lives,” Johnson said.

Henry called the Saturday morning session “the icing on the cake.”

“Pastors ministered one to another by praying for one another, by sharing ministry life and ministry stories and celebrating ministry call,” he said. “So often, we think about the weight of ministry call,” with its burdens, and we lose the “moment of pure joy when God placed His call on us. … It gets lost in the busyness of ministry, but, hopefully, at this event it reappeared.”

Mark Pitts, pastor of Village Meadows Baptist Church, Sierra Vista, and leader of the retreat planning team, recalled the Pastors and Wives Retreats years ago.

“So many pastors [would] come ready to give up and leave recharged and continue to stay in ministry,” he said. The retreats “really ramped up … the sustainability of pastoral care to a local congregation,” he said.

Judging from a few comments in an evaluation following the retreat, it was true for this retreat as well. Pastors wrote of arriving feeling “beaten up” but leaving having recovered joy in the Lord, with refreshed batteries and some burdens laid aside.praying

“Those that left were wishing that their cohorts would have come,” Pitts said. “It was very helpful in terms of our working together for the common purpose of making disciples. It did fit very nicely the Centennial Vision statement, at least in terms of encouraging one another to step back into the fray.”

Before they even left, pastors and wives were asking when the next retreat would be held.

“We know that it is not something we can do annually financially, but be in prayer for the next pastors retreat,” Henry said. “We intend to do it again; we’re just not sure how quickly.”

The retreat was “made possible through the churches’ investment in the Arizona Mission Offering and other resources,” Henry said. For the past three years, a portion of the Arizona Mission Offering was allocated for the retreat. Some of the funds from this year’s offering, which Arizona Southern Baptist churches will receive in September, will go toward the next retreat.

“The fact that the Arizona Mission Offering made it happen ultimately was critical,” Pitts said. “I’m hoping that the pastors who attended would, even if for somewhat selfish reasons, promote the Arizona Mission Offering a little bit more vigorously because it will help realize this again.”