Celebration of Ministry Retreats 2019

Remaining in Grace —Year 35 Retreat – Class of 1984
Excelling in Grace— Year 25 Retreat – Class of 1994
Renewed in Grace — Year 10 Retreat – Class of 2009
Begun in Grace —Year Three Retreat – Class of 2016

Through the Pastor Partner initiative, Grow in Grace hosts the Celebration of Ministry Retreats. The retreats are designed to celebrate with Pastors and wives who are approaching a key ministry milestone. The 2019 retreats will take place in San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday, April 24 – Friday April 26.

The retreats include:

  • Remaining in Grace for pastors & wives marking 35 years of pastoral ministry;
  • Excelling in Grace for pastors & wives marking 25 years of pastoral ministry;
  • Renewed in Grace for pastors & wives marking 10 years of pastoral ministry; and
  • Begun in Grace for pastors & wives marking three years of pastoral ministry.

“The Word and its messages through worship and presentations was perfect for our renewal. Also, I must mention how great it is to be with those classmates you know so well and who know you. Only with such ones can you relax, remember and really laugh.”

– Daniel Bondow class of 2008

Pastors who were originally part of the anniversary classes but who graduated a year or two later because of a year spent elsewhere in school or emergency calls are also welcome to attend with their original class.

Registration Information

Early bird registration is only $399 per couple or $199 for single pastors. The early bird registration discount closes on February 15, 2019. After that date, the price of registration will be $425 per couple and $225 for single pastors. The registration fee includes: banquet meal on Wednesday, administrative and printing costs, as well as presenter expenses. Your hotel and transportation fees are separate.


We have crafted four unique agendas for the 2019 Celebration of Ministry retreat. We pray these agendas will be beneficial to each pastor and his wife for their specific ministry milestone. It is our hope that those who attend will:

  • have the opportunity to take advantage of presentations aimed at your specific season in the called ministry (as couples and individually);
  • have the opportunity to consider challenges and opportunities you may face in the future; and,
  • celebrate God’s grace on your ministry and the ministry of your classmates.

The retreat begins at 1pm on Wednesday April 24 and concludes with a closing worship service on Friday, April 26 by 12pm. Other retreat highlights include a joint opening worship service, couples and individual workshop selections, multi-part Bible studies, joint seated dinner, free time for fellowship and more.


This year we are holding two joint worship services. One opening communion service and one as a closing service. This year, Pastor Charles Degner will preach for the opening communion service. The closing service will be presided by Seminary Professor Rich Gurgel. View the worship bulletin from last year here.


For those attending the 10, 25, and 35 year retreats, there are multiple workshops from which to choose. The workshops and plenary presentations for each group are geared toward their specific stages in their ministries and lives.

Presenter Bios

Each retreat has the opportunity to hear from different presenters about various topics. View which presenters will be leading a session for your unique retreat.

Bible Studies

The centerpiece of the retreats are the joint opening and closing worship services and the four session Bible studies. This year, Pastor David Valleskey will lead the year 35 retreat in their Bible study on Colossians. Martin Luther College President, Mark Zarling, will lead the year 25 retreat on a study of 1 Peter. Seminary Professor, Rich Gurgel will lead the year 10 retreat in his study, Rejoice in the Lord Always. The year three retreat will be lead in a study on Being Christ’s Ambassador by Professor Mark Paustian.

Run the Walk 5K

This 5K Run/Walk is for the Pastors and their spouses who are attending the WELS Celebration of Ministry Retreats. Husbands, wives, and team members are all invited to sign up. Share which retreat you’re a part of when you register (3 years, 10 years, 25 years, 35 year, or team member). Read more

Location Information

Drury Plaza Hotel

Retreat attendees are responsible for making and paying for their own lodging arrangements. Hotel reservations should be made directly with the hotel. You can book your rooms online at www.druryhotels.com. Under the reservations tab click on make a new reservation. Then, in the upper left-hand corner, click on enter a group number. Then enter group number of 2308084, or you may call 1-800-325-0720 and also refer to the group number. Reservations need to be made by March 15 to secure the reduced group rate. Reservations made after that are subject to the prevailing rate and availability. The reduced rates are also available before and after the retreat should you choose to enjoy beautiful San Antonio on your own time.

Note: During the Celebration Retreats in San Antonio there is a major festival taking place this year. Room reservations that are NOT placed by the deadline will be surrendered by the hotel to guests attending the major festival.


Hotel parking is available at a cost of $23.00 per car, per night for overnight guests only.


Rio Plaza

Wednesday evening’s banquet, brief program, and fellowship (before and after the banquet) will take place this year at Rio Plaza.

Wednesday’s dinner menu will include: Plated Tex-Mex Enchilada served with Spanish rice and refried beans. Chips and salsa served on all tables. Complimentary drinks include unsweetened tea and water. Cash bar is available.

Rio Plaza is able to modify the menu for those with dietary restrictions. Since such arrangements must be made in advance, please list any such dietary restrictions in the box provided on the registration form.

Dining on your own

Your registration includes the following meals and fellowship:

  • Wednesday, April 24 – Dinner & fellowship at our evening banquet
  • Thursday, April 25 – Breakfast (lunch & dinner on your own)
  • Friday, April 26 – Breakfast (lunch on your own)

The River Walk is home to a variety of restaurants of many tastes. The Drury provides daily breakfast as well as a Kickback event starting at 5:30pm. The Kickback event provides a generous amount of appetizers as well as adult beverages that are included in your room rate.


On-site Childcare

Grow in Grace has received consistent feedback on what a blessing this retreat has been for husband and wife to attend together alone. Since the retreat remains focused on strengthening pastors and their wives, we strongly encourage making arrangements for childcare for the duration of the retreat. However, we do welcome infants under the age of one year to attend with parents if necessary, as we will be making onsite childcare available for those who can find no other option.

Please indicate on the registration form if you plan to bring your infant with you to the retreat and plan to make use of the free onsite childcare.

Transportation and Travel Costs

Arrival time and transportation to/from airport

In the past we have had attendees miss the opening session and even the entire first day due to weather and flight delays. Please allow yourself enough time for travel and possible delays in order to make the most out of this celebration opportunity. The retreat begins on Wednesday, April 24 at 1 p.m. and concludes on Friday, April 26 at noon.

For those flying into San Antonio, the most economical transportation to the Drury Riverfront Plaza is to use a taxi/Uber/Lyft. We have found this option both cheaper and quicker than the shuttle service we have used previously. Those who happen to arrive with others attending the retreat and are looking for a taxi to the hotel can often find mini-van size taxis that allow up to six riders for the same cost, thus considerably lowering the per-person cost. It may be even easier to coordinate such joint rides as the retreat ends. Those wishing to include the cost of the taxi/Uber/Lyft in their travel reimbursement request are encouraged to request a receipt.

Estimated cost of ride: approximately $30 each way with some variation depending on traffic.

**Make use of this  spreadsheet when it comes to arrival and departure times to/from the airport.**

Please note: There is another Drury on the Riverwalk within two blocks of our hotel. Be sure to tell the taxi driver that you are staying at the Drury Plaza San Antonio Riverwalk.


Explanation Sheet

Transportation costs will vary depending on distance from San Antonio. However, in order to equalize travel costs to some degree, the seminary has set up a transportation equalization fund. Transportation costs in excess of $700 per couple ($350 if traveling alone) will be reimbursed by the seminary at 50%.

We have provided an explanation sheet that provides a few more details on how this transportation reimbursement will work.