So the saying goes that you should work hard and play hard (or for some, play harder). After a little thought, this is exactly what planners bring to us with their goals for an off-site ministry event. They want guests to “work hard” in their worship and meeting times, praising God, studying His word, and sometimes even solving church problems. They also want guests to play hard by going to retreat centers that offer various recreation that churches just can’t offer. After all, no one said ministry couldn’t be fun. And there truly isn’t a better way to bond with congregation members than through worship and play.
However, there is one element that can regularly get neglected when planning the greatest retreat ever. How often do you hear people say that they scheduled some rest time? There are plenty of things to do and we understand trying to fit them all in, but guests won’t appreciate being overworked during their retreat. Isn’t that busyness exactly what guests came to the retreat to get away from?
For example, let’s say you scheduled an evening worship service from 9 until 10 followed by a late-night pizza party. That sounds awesome! But then the following morning, guests have to report to breakfast by 7. I don’t think so.
Retreat, by definition, is “to get away from”. Even Jesus recognizes the need to go away in the book of Mark, “he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”. I don’t know about you, but a little alone time with God sounds like the perfect way to replenish the soul. Designated meditation and prayer time are just as effective as a led worship or study group. But the perfect retreat finds a balance of both.
To be honest, there are a lot of factors that determine the best length and times. What is your group demographic? How active are they? For example, you won’t have a kids camp spending 3 hours a day with nothing to do. But a good place to start would be scheduling in blocks. Start with a worship service/speaker for 30 minutes. Then give about 15-20 minutes for guests to pray, reflect and stretch their legs before sending them off to a small group discussion or team building. Follow up with a little recreation before heading to a meal where they can continue conversing on their day. A small window (about an hour) after the meal to again be alone can allow them to rest and prepare for following activities.
In the end, an effective retreat is one that builds faith and renews the soul. Now that you are ready to get back to planning that awesome retreat, make sure to pencil in some breaks. Out of all the details, this will be the easiest to plan.