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The Power of Retreats

A retreat is one of the most effective means of building a team..

By Micheal Rasmussen, Superintendent, North America and Caribbean

I discovered the power of retreats a little more than 20 years ago when I was invited by our now president, Greg Williams, to join him at a retreat to discuss moving from a denominational camp program to developing regional camps.

It was an eclectic group, gathered from the four corners of the country. Our ages spanned from early 30s to 60s. The group gathered in a cabin in Georgia, set back in the hills amongst a backdrop of beautiful trees. We gathered to dream and to brainstorm about how to move forward. We spent time joking and laughing over shared meals and late-night conversations. We participated in a couple group activities that we still talk and joke about to this day.

As the weekend ended, we passionately proclaimed that we needed to do this again! We had been transformed from individuals with different ideas, cultures, and expectations, to a bonded group with a shared vision. The bond we built at that retreat started friendships that have lasted decades.

When we think about the power of retreats, we should not be that surprised by their effectiveness. They are all about building relationships and connecting points between people within a group. We know Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in perfect relationship. It is out of their relationship and love they created humanity, so their love and relationship can be enjoyed and shared with others. If God is a God of relationships (and he is), and if we are created in his likeness (and we are), we should not be surprised that we too were created for relationships with God and with one another.

Retreats provide the space and the opportunity for relationships to form and connecting points to occur. These gathering opportunities, when bathed in prayer and surrendered to the Holy Spirit (and interspersed with lots of food), amazing things often begin to happen. Walls begin to come down; similarities are discovered; and relationships begin to grow and deepen. This is the goal of any and all leadership retreats.

Having said that, retreats can sometimes have teaching and/or a training element as well. But one must be careful not to add too much training, otherwise the retreat becomes a conference or a workshop. These are also essential for Healthy Church but are run quite differently from a retreat.

Following are a few suggestions for healthy and productive retreats. (Note: these are not strategy retreats, which Michelle Hartman will address in her article.)

Size of group: I have learned to not make the group too large. It is equally important not to make your retreat too small either. Too large and it is hard for people to make real connections because of the noise and activity created by the large numbers. Too small of a group and it too can become awkward or feel forced. In my experience, the most effective retreats have been between six to twelve people.

A loose agenda, considered prayerfully: When I host a retreat, I make a list of topics and/or discussion points I feel are important. I then take my list and I begin to pray over it. I ask the Holy Spirit if these are ideas or concerns he is placing on my heart, that he would also place them on the hearts of those attending. Every single time, without fail, by the time the retreat is over, most if not all the points I had on my list, get brought up and discussed and not by me. We must trust that the Holy Spirit is at work leading and directing all of us on a path towards Jesus and his ministry. Sometimes we do not take the time to listen and trust the Holy Spirit but feel the need to force a regimented agenda. Again having a regimented or tight agenda is not wrong, but it that type of gathering would be better referred to as a working retreat, or a strategic planning retreat. In these cases, make sure there is plenty of time for building relationships.

Unscheduled discussions: I have discovered over the years that the best and most important discussions that take place during a retreat are often the ones that are unscheduled or seem random. I have come to believe they are not random, but Spirit-led in a uniquely organic way. Conversations around the dinner table, while playing a game, or out on a deck or patio gathered around a fire, are some of the best conversations you can have. And this is where bonding seems to take place.

In Grace Communion International, we have worked hard to foster a retreat mentality. Our Home Office managers have an annual retreat. Our Superintendents across the globe gather for intentional retreats. Our Regional Directors have enjoyed cabin retreats for 10 plus years. We have regional cabin retreats for our pastors and facilitators every three years. We are beginning to request that pastors host retreats for their Avenue champions and key leaders. All of this makes my heart glad because I know they are providing opportunities for all to live out who we really are as God’s beloved sons and daughters.

If you have not had the privilege of taking part in a retreat, now is the time to plan one. You and your team will benefit in ways you can only imagine. I am praying for you and asking God to make a way for relationships to flourish in your families, in your congregations, and in your neighborhoods for his glory.

One thought on “The Power of Retreats”

  1. Thanks Michael for the helpful insights. It has been my experience that the “unscheduled discussions” at the various retreats I had the privilege to attend over the years were the most impactful. The Holy Spirit‘s agenda at times is very surprising.

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