Pastors and other rostered leaders and their families can be vulnerable to stress and burn out, particularly at this time of the year with Advent and Christmas activities, finance and budget meetings and preparations for annual meetings.

The Northeastern Iowa Synod recognizes this and offers four different sites for an opportunity to get away, relax and renew anytime of the year. In 2000 the Synod Council approved this ministry with the mission statement:

To provide a safe place and context for retreat, relaxation, and renewal for persons in ministries and their families.

The purpose of the retreat centers is to

  • Provide a safe haven for rest and relaxation
  • To renew physically, emotionally and spiritually
  • To retreat for a period of time
  • To walk quietly with God
  • To relate to creation
  • To have privacy and yet not be isolated
  • To come to greater self-awareness in a quiet and peaceful setting

Pastor David and Elayne Werges own and operate a site in Cedar Hill near Decorah.   It offers a place to get away with camping, hiking, fishing and canoeing on 240 acres of farmland and woods.  It is also close to Luther College for an opportunity to study.

“It’s a chance to get away for a day or a week, to be someplace different and to do something different,” notes Pastor Werges.  It is also a good spot for retreats for church councils, confirmation classes and youth groups.

Sometimes, for those living in open country and rural areas, a getaway in a more urban area is what is needed.  Home Park House in Waterloo can offer a chance to get away, and take advantage of opportunities the city has to offer.

Pastor Gary Ols0n owns and runs this site.  He knows firsthand how vulnerable pastors can be to stress at times and how hard it can be for families as well.  “These retreat opportunities are just as important, maybe even more so for families and spouses,” he observes.  The site has also been used by missionaries who have found it on the internet.

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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