News & Updates

Peace be with you

Posted on: October 1st, 2012

Peace be with you.

Jesus’ words from Luke 24:36


After Jesus’ Resurrection, He appeared to His disciples and offered this greeting: Shalom, Shalom.

Each time I read these words, I am reminded that God offers us His peace in abundance – Shalom, Shalom.

Peace.  So important.  Sometimes, so difficult to find.

Where do you go to focus on God and experience peace?  Do you have a favorite spot in the Midwest that serves as a retreat for your soul? Is there a special place where your family has spent time focusing on one another far from the intrusions of life?

Our favorite retreat location is in New London, Wisconsin. My husband and I spent last weekend at this retreat home and we immersed ourselves in the beauty of the first day of Fall while relaxing at Shalom House.

Shalom House is a hidden treasure that I’d like to share with you, so that you may share it with others.

Shalom House is a stunning retreat home designed for families involved in ministry.  This large home sits on three wooded acres.  A master suite with jacuzzi, three additional bedrooms, a large family kitchen, large screen TV and a sitting room with fireplace gives any sized family plenty of space to relax and refresh. A wooded path on the property allows visitors to soak up the beauty of God’s creation in solitude. A private pool and hot tub is a luxury that helps wash stress away. The Shalom House game room has been the site of exciting  family ping pong tournaments.

The host couple, Vaughn and Maralee Groen, welcome families with warm chocolate chip cookies and a smile. The Groens have a remarkable  ability to make themselves invisible so that families can focus on their time together. They are also available to encourage and pray with couples as needed.

Maralee’s home cooking is available for families who want a break from meal preparation. Their love, care and attention to detail has created a warm and inviting environment – a refuge for refreshment and renewal for hundreds of pastors and wives.

The Shalom House is a ministry of Pinnacle Ministry.  Their goal is to provide an affordable retreat environment where pastors, pastors’ wives and families can relax, refresh and refocus.

Are you a ministry family looking for some peace and quiet?  Or, do you know and love a pastoral couple that could use some R and R? If you want more information, I invite you to visit

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures taken at Shalom on the first day of Fall 2012.

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV


Posted on: September 17th, 2012

“Get Real!”  How many times have we heard that little phrase; sometimes as an exclamation and sometimes as a challenge.

Getting real was a great description of our time together at the Retool Kit Coaches’ Training at Green Lake.  I (Gary) focus my training efforts on “Track One” coaches – those who are just starting out and help the church work through the first year of the pathway.  We were fortunate enough to have some experienced pastors who also had coached a church in attendance, and my was the discussion “real”.  How real?

To understand that, you need to know just a bit about Retool.  In the first part of the pathway, we look to understand the health and effectiveness of the “heart” of the church as evidenced by their core functions (Cause, Community and Corporation or structure).  Then we talk about how disciples and leaders are developed, using the model Jesus gave us.  We ask how the “heart” of the leaders are doing, especially in the areas of life transformation, loving interdependence and spiritual reproduction.  Finally, we examine the health of the church community itself – if the “immune system” (the “one anothers” of Scripture) are functioning well, and if the church know how to fight in a Biblically healthy fashion.  As you can imagine, such topics raise lots of practical questions, such as:

  • How do we know when our church is “bumping up” against one of the Cause, Community or Corporate circles, and thus inhibiting our growth?
  • Does anybody really have a holistic system for developing disciples and leaders??  How do I help encourage people to move from one stage of growth to another and not just plateau?
  • What does emotional healthy really look like, anyway?
  • How do I deal with previous patterns of sinfulness in the church that might be manifesting themselves today?
  • How can I help levels of conflict not spiral out of control and come to healthy conclusions?
  • Can you help me to figure out a healthy way to conduct Biblical discipline of a wayward member?


Real questions, are they not?  It’s always fun to see something familiar through fresh eyes.  We had a brother from the Dominican Republic attend, and he asked the “real” real question.  He said that none of the churches he was familiar with at home ever tackled this stuff, content to just do church.  His question…”When will  you come and help us introduce Retool to the churches of the Caribbean?”

Want to know more?

The Bride of Christ in Training

Posted on: September 12th, 2012

“For the wedding of the lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready…Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb.” Revelation 19:7,9

Isn’t it exciting to think about the day when the whole Body, the Bride of Christ, will be presented as one at the wedding supper of the Lamb? All the things that caused separation between believers over the course of history will disappear and the church will come together as one bride.  Even today, the bride is in preparation for that glorious moment as we share in common “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” I Peter 3:4

Green Lake Conference Center provided the scenic setting for three days of Retool Kit Coaches’ Training September 5-7, led by Pinnacle Ministries’ staff Gary Harrison and Ray Swatkowski, with Dan Thompson providing technical assistance and coaching insights. Pastors and district leaders from 5 different fellowships were represented during the dual-track event for new and experienced coaches who share the goal of mobilizing vital, reproducing churches.  The fellowships included the Forest Lakes EFCA, Wisconsin Classis RCA, ABC Michigan, North Central CMA and Converge Worldwide. The cross section of fellowships created an ideal environment for sharing a common passion: churches that impact their communities with a common vision and effective strategies.

Reaching that goal requires a local body of believers that provide a picture of Christ to the community around them in the way they relate to one another.  Pastor Santiago Valentine, Brickyard Bible Church, Chicago, spoke to that passion on Wednesday night as he shared the power that a clear vision has had in his own congregation.  He told how God began opening doors in the community for an after school program and Center stage involvement in a local Latino Festival even as they were in the process of clarifying their strategic 3-year vision, opportunities that might have been missed had they not intentionally sought God’s direction.

An afternoon for golf and other activities provided for great fellowship on Thursday at the halfway point of the event.  Thursday evening focused on momentum and building effective mobilization systems in a district or regional movement.  When the sessions concluded at midday Friday, there was a sense of excitement about what God would do through our work together in the year to come.



Retool Kit News & Training Update

Posted on: July 31st, 2012

Over and over again, we hear of the impact Retool is having on churches, both healthy and struggling.  Just recently, Gary was meeting with an area district executive over breakfast who told him of a church that, prior to Retool, was a candidate for closure.  However, by guiding the church through the pathway, and involving an interim pastor who knew how to utilize the principles involved in Retool, the church is now thriving.  He said, “They just baptized 7 more people and they are literally busting at the seams.”  And this is in a small, rural town!

Recently, an independent study of Retool was conducted as part of a Master’s student’s thesis at Crown College.  We were heartened as we read it, especially considering we have yet to meet its author!  Consider just the following two observations he drew in his research:

  • The time is ripe for Retool to assist the local church in reversing the current tides of flat attendance, pastoral burnout and cultural irrelevancy.
  • Community service and involvement was seen as the most exciting result of Retool… It can be said that Retool has had positive impact on the churches that participated in Retool Kit Pathway.  The makeup of the leadership teams in general getting younger, and seeing more involvement by attendees that in the past were uninvolved.  Another positive and also long term impact on the church is that with Retool, 67% agreed they have changed their approach in identifying potential leaders and 83% said they are now prioritizing leadership development.  Interestingly, the same percentage acknowledged an increase in membership in their churches.


The secret of Retool is that it gets a church and its people all moving in the same direction while creating time and space for God to work in their hearts.  Couple this with a solid understanding of the needs of the community the church serves, and structured plans to meet those needs, and the result is Kingdom impact.

But getting the maximum impact from the Retool Kit Pathway requires trained and supported coaches, and our September 5-7 training at the Green Lake Conference Center, Green Lake, WI is the best place to start.  It’s a two-track event, one for each part of the Retool Kit.  Track 1 covers Retreats 1-3; new coaches can come and get all they need to know to start a church in Retool this fall or winter.  Coming back a second time for Track 2 (Retreats 4-6) will help them master the implementation phase of Retool and complete their skill set.

So, who is this event for?  1) Denominational executives who have heard about Retool and want to learn how to begin and sustain a movement of mobilization in their district or region; 2) first-time coaches just beginning, and coaches entering the second year of the pathway; 3) finally, coaches who just want to learn the latest developments in Retool, and sharpen their skills.

It probably makes bad business sense to work yourself out of a job, but that really is at the heart of our Retool movement!  We want to equip districts and regions with tools, support and guidance so that after two years, they have the basics of a self-sustaining movement that provides real help to established churches.  Denominations often place great emphasis on, and resources behind the planting of new churches;  we need to start all the new, effective congregations we can!  However, we find the solutions offered to help established churches regain or maintain Kingdom-effectiveness are more sporadic or less focused.  We want to partner with districts and regions that desire to change that reality.

So, what do you need to do? Go to Retool Kit Pathway Coaches’ Corner, download the pdf of information and follow the onsite registration information.  Registration forms, along with payment, are due no later than Friday, August 17th, 2012.  If you have questions, please call Gary (715.551-6788) or Ray (224.622-0442). While you’re on the website, check out some of the pastoral renewal solutions we offer at Pinnacle Ministries.  After all, the church is a system comprised of pastors, leaders and people, and all need to be effective for the church to have its greatest impact.

From Dysfunction to Discipleship

Posted on: February 7th, 2012


Mentor Baptist Church, Mentor, OH   Pastor Brian Landrum

Mentor Baptist Church is sixty years old.  When I came from California to be pastor of this small-town church not far from Cleveland, there were many challenges. In spite of these challenges, God has been doing a wonderful work in this church.

Thirty years ago, a group of teenagers ran over and killed a deacon in the church parking lot.  For thirty years, we have been known in our community as the church where the deacon was killed in the parking lot.

Overcoming this identity has been difficult.   We knew that before God could use us we needed to clean up the dysfunction and conflict that accompanied this identity.

Gary Schroeder and Dan Peterson from the Converge MidAtlantic office suggested the Retool Kit process for our church.

As we began the Retool Kit, we wrestled with who we were as a church.  We struggled with unhealthy relationships and dysfunctional behavior.  As we moved through the process, God began to reshape us.  Our DNA dramatically changed.  We dealt with our conflict issues.

Eventually we were healthy enough to look towards some goals for the future of our church.  Beautiful posters in our sanctuary continually remind us of these important goals.

Our first goal is to Experience Authentic Relationship. “Hi, how are you?” will no longer do.  We want authentic, accountable relationships that encourage people to follow Christ.

Our second goal is to Engage Our Community. SON Ministries (Serving Our Neighbors) is reaching out in this small town.  No longer are we waiting for people to come to us.  We are out in our neighborhoods serving and loving people.

Our third goal is to Enhance Our Visual Presentation.  Set back from the street, tucked away, we were barely noticeable.   Today, new landscaping and signage give us greater visibility in Mentor.

The Retool Kit process has changed who we are.  It put us back on the map.

No longer are we the church where the deacon was killed in the parking lot.

 Now, we are the church that is out serving God in our community.

Connect at a Deeper Level

Posted on: February 7th, 2012

North Haven Church, St. Paul. MN       Pastor Darrell Benhardus

When our vision team at North Haven Church completed the Retool Pathway three years ago, God gave us a new vision. Our distinctive vision can be summarized in one word: Connect.  God has called us to connect at a deeper level

  • To Christ by intentionally pursuing a growing relationship with Him
  • To each other by purposefully building loving relationships
  • To our community by actively working together to introduce families to Christ

To fulfill our vision for connecting to Christ at a deeper level, we have implemented two strategies.  The first is Intentional Living Cohorts.  These groups meet together once a month for nine months learning about and practicing a variety of spiritual disciplines.  So far, seventy-three people have been part of this learning experience.  The second strategy involves One-on-One Discipleship.  A trained discipler leads a disciple through a series of lessons on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith.   At this point, we have thirteen trained disciplers.

A Care Connects Ministry equips people to visit the homebound from our congregation. This is one of our first steps in fulfilling the second part of our vision, to connect with one another at a deeper level.  We have also launched a team of Connectors who identify new attendees, intentionally interacting with them and helping them to connect with other people and ministries at North Haven.

The third part of our vision, connecting to our community at a deeper level,  has yielded amazing results.  North Haven’s Connect to the Community Ministry Team has been working hard to fulfill our vision in the community.

  • We have developed a partnership with an elementary school just a couple blocks from our church.  We provide weekly backpacks of snacks and non-perishable food items for homeless students to take with them on the weekends.  Seven percent of the students in this school are homeless.
  • Families from our church donate these items and gather once a month to pack these backpacks.
  • The families receiving these backpacks are invited to a Thanksgiving dinner.
  • This ministry team has also provided clothing for a clothes closet at the elementary school.
  • Members of our church have the opportunity to volunteer as reading buddies for children at this school.
  • Our Wednesday club and youth programs are growing in number.
  • Community outreach events like Summer Festival  and Fall Festival are reaching more people in our community.

This ministry to the elementary school has energized our church in fulfilling our God-given vision to be a church that cares about kids and families in our community.  Even new attendees quickly realize that North Haven’s vision is to connect to our community in tangible ways.

We are now seeing the numerical fruit from the Retool process.

We are grateful for the vision God has given us.

Connect: To Christ. To each other. To our community.


Change Done the Right Way!

Posted on: February 7th, 2012

“As a senior pastor for over 30 years, the Retool Kit has my strong endorsement.  Whether a church plant, an established church, a large or small church, each will reap great benefits from Retool. Retool is change done the right way!”

Pastor Dave Beckwith, interim pastor and Retool Kit coach

The Power of Tools

Posted on: February 7th, 2012

Cumberland Baptist Church, Cumberland, WI

By Pastor Gary Dorn

When I accepted the position as Senior Pastor at Cumberland Baptist Church in 2008, I came to a church that was struggling and in decline.  This congregation of wonderful people was experiencing much dissatisfaction and conflict.

One evening, as I spoke frankly with my elders, I told them we needed to pray that no new person would walk through the doors because our church was sick.  We knew our mission was to make disciples, but we had no idea of what we were doing.  We were not a healthy community. We needed help.

It was then that our elders made a commitment to figure this out.  We knew we could do it. We also knew it might take us many years.  But, by God’s Grace, we would figure it out. We were committed.

Shortly after this meeting, Dr. Stu Dix told me about The Retool Kit.  My first reaction was that it was simply another new program. Stu reassured me that this was not a program.  It was a process and we needed to get more information.

In January of 2009, I went with an elder to a weekend retreat where we learned about the Retool Kit.  As we drove away, the elder said, “Those are the tools we need!”  Immediately, we knew what we needed to do.

In the fall of 2009, we began the Retool Kit Process.  It began with renewing our community, rebuilding our leadership and gaining a burden for our community.  We did not discuss vision until the second year of this process. By the time we began to discuss vision, we knew who we were as a church and we knew our community.

We realized that we were an older congregation and that was not a bad thing.  Using Ttius 2 as a guide, older Christians began to love on younger Christians.  We became a generation bridging church.

We also discovered that our community was overwhelmed with addictions. We need to love these hurting people.

We also looked inward and realized that we had much work to do in the area of our music.

Using these three issues as our starting point, we have a new vision.

Cumberland Baptist Church is called to be Christ centered, broken people, bridging generations to discover God’s direction and healing, using our God-given gifts to focus our hearts in worship.

The effects of the Retool Kit process were evident long before we launched our new vision in the fall of 2011.   In the summer of 2011, our attendance doubled over the previous year.   At the end of 2010, we were $10,000 behind in our budget.  As of the fall of 2011, we are $8,000 ahead.

More importantly, we have a new reputation in our community.  In 2008, when I arrived at Cumberland, if you had asked people about our church, most may not have even known we were in the community.  For those who knew about our church and where we were located, many thought we did not care about our community.  That has changed.

A member of our congregation that works at the local hospital overheard a comment from someone who is not a member of our church.  She said, “Cumberland Baptist Church is a place that hurting people can go when they need love.”

The Retool Kit is about the power of tools.  It provides the tools that churches need.  It is not a program but a process.  It doesn’t make cookie cutter churches, but helps your church find out who God wants you to be.

Our New Website!

Posted on: November 3rd, 2011

Welcome to our new website!  

Our desire to serve churches and those who lead them more effectively has led us to develop this new site which combines 3 previous sites: Pinnacle Ministries, Retool Kit Pathway and Shalom House.  While incorporating many of the resources of those sites, we hope to avoid duplication and confusion about our ministries.  We’ll keep you posted on new features we will be adding soon. Have fun exploring!

Hello world!

Posted on: May 13th, 2011

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