Darrel W. Johnson

Someone has said, “We must come apart for awhile to prevent us from coming apart permanently.” We need to remove ourselves periodically from the normal ministry routine and make time to restore our vision and renew our passion. Jesus said to the first disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place, and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

Note the words carefully. Yes, there is restoration in the quiet places, a measure of renewal in getting away by ourselves. But the key lies in the phrase “with me.” It is his presence in the quiet place that makes for the miracle. Church historians tell us that nearly every period of revival in the church’s vitality has involved retreat ministries – believers intentionally going away to meet with their Lord for particular purposes.

We need to plan for specialized retreats, getting away with people in similar life circumstances for the purpose of addressing, in the Lord’s presence, particular common needs. We should also design retreats for teaching on and actually doing prayer, for covering specific portions of Scripture, for grappling with sensitive issues believers are facing.

Ideas for Effectiveness

Those who regularly plan and lead such retreats advise:

*Worship, worship, worship! Through worship, tension is released, perspective is regained, hearts are softened, and God becomes more real and present. We can begin and end with worship – and worship, even if for only a moment, along the way.

– Work with a team. It’s good to recruit and train a team of people, giving each person particular responsibilities. One or two of the members might do the teaching, and one or two the music. Others may handle supplies (from providing notebooks and Bibles to securing extra toothbrushes and aspirin). Other team members may focus on simply making themselves available for conversation and counseling.

– Plan carefully – and then let things evolve. Those who repeat the same retreat often tell us that each one takes on a life of its own. Though the schedule of events may be the same as the one before, the mix of people and the freedom of the Holy Spirit make for something unrepeatable. We can be open to the Lord, who wants to create something no one in the planning process could have anticipated.

– Go with the flow of energy. Cer tain kinds of activities work best in certain time frames. Week-long retreats, for example, tend to bog down during the third day. So, plan for a change of pace: a recreation day, or a field trip away from the retreat center. Weekend retreats tend to work best with the following rhythm:

Friday evening: worship songs are strong and lively; content of messages requires lots of vivid imagery.

Saturday morning: worship can begin lively and become more meditative; content of messages can be more didactic and informational.

Saturday evening: worship will be meditative; content should stress the personal and devotional.
Sunday morning: worship needs to be bright, more concrete; content should focus on “Where do we go from here?”

Plan for follow-up. It’s a good idea to give participants specific suggestions about what they can do when they return to their routines (including how they might change any routines that hinder spiritual vitality). We may want to plan a follow-up event, such as a Fridayevening potluck, a Saturday picnic, or several small-group meetings.

As leaders we need to relax and enjoy the benefits of retreating with our flocks. We can find a level of healing and transformation taking place that simply cannot happen in a one-hour time span on Sunday mornings.