Retreat Info

Retreat Information

Why plan a Christian retreat?

“A Christian retreat is an intentional time away to experience a new awareness of the presence of God. It is an opportunity to get some distance and see things in perspective. It requires a pace that is unhurried and conducive to rest and relaxation in order to come back with a renewed sense of living as Disciples of Christ.

A retreat is a chance for an encounter with God, with other people, with creation, with issues, with self. A retreat is an intentional strategy to withdraw from everyday life. Everything involved in getting away, and all that is done while away, involves coming back with a renewed faith and sense of purpose in our spiritual life.

Retreats deepen the fellowship of a community through shared experiences and can focus the energy of a group, whether your purpose is to do planning, problem solving, team building, to tackle a topic of interest or concern or just to have fun.

Remember, people attend what they help to plan. Invite and involve others to assist in planning for the retreat as well. As you probably know people that participate in the planning of an event are far more likely to take ownership and show up.” Excerpts from Keith and Gretchen Asbury and the Gambrells


Retreat Size

The Church was built on the Small Group Bible Study Pattern. Jesus taught numerous times in small group settings throughout the Gospels. It was an extremely small group Bible study that resulted in an Ethiopian eunuch being baptized at a roadside pond in Acts 8.

People in a small group are more likely to participate in discussions than in a large class. Since there are fewer people, there is less room to sit in the background and more opportunity to talk and be engaged. Christian retreats can be great resources for renewal, planning, and in-depth study. We encourage small groups that number twenty or less.


Types of Retreats

There are no rules for the right way to do a retreat, but there is one wrong way, and that is not to know your purpose. Decide up front what you want to accomplish, and then plan your retreat. There are many possibilities and combinations, but let me offer three general types of retreats.

  1. Play-and-pray retreat: This retreat offers both fun and extended times before the Lord. Though this may seem like a freewheeling setting without much structure (there is some free time), it is highly planned. Think through the games and the prayer times so they can accomplish your retreat goals. Typically, these kinds of retreats are held to develop relationships and increase team spirit and morale. But a play-and-pray retreat is also great for spiritual breakthrough, fasting, and hearing God’s voice. Play-and-pray retreats are usually 1 to 2 days in length.
  2. Planning retreat: Does your ministry staff take time away from the church building to refocus and re-energize? Perhaps it is time for everyone to get away on a staff retreat. There are different types of retreats, and each provides benefits. The important part is to get out of the building and be together.
    People who serve on multi-person staffs likely have regular meetings; nevertheless, they benefit from getting away together. Too often, staff will focus on their individual areas of ministry and don't take the time to build relationships or prepare a congregation-wide focus for the year ahead.

    The planning retreat
    During a planning retreat, the ministry staff can look ahead for a year or more, identifying areas of emphasis and how the various areas may work together to move the congregation forward. Being away often helps with the brainstorming process.

    It is a good idea to limit the time to one day without staying overnight so you stay focused and alert. If you may desire to extend the retreat by incorporating times of prayer and recreation, remember to keep planning as the main purpose. (Excerpt from Andrew J. Schleicher on staff planning retreats)

  3. Personal and professional growth retreat. This retreat is focused on staff training. The possible variations are limitless. You might bring in a speaker/coach/facilitator or lead it yourself. The most common topic is leadership, but spiritual formation is also a worthwhile investment. You might travel together to a conference but include significant discussion times with your team. The key is to make sure the content of the retreat has application to the lives of your staff members. 

—Dan M. Reiland, D.Min., Lawrenceville, Georgia


Retreat Attendees & Budget

Determine who attends the retreat. Who gets to go often creates political skirmishes and hurt feelings, but don’t let these things serve as guides for who attends. Make your selections intentionally. Who attends is determined by the purpose.

Determine your budget. Again, there are no rules here, but don’t be cheap. You are investing in the future of your church when you invest in your staff. If you don’t have much money set aside this year, plan for a more generous amount next year. Funds for the retreat should be under the leadership development category in your budget. Select a location and set the date.

Avoid the major obstacles to a successful retreat.

1. Unclear purpose

2. Lack of preparation

3. Last-minute preparation

4. Unmotivated attendees

5. Poor location (no thorough on-site check before booking)

6. Staff missing (calendars not cleared in advance)

7. Lack of follow-through (You must follow up on idea implementation, assignments, and questions that arose during the retreat.)

I recommend two retreats a year, one of which is a planning retreat. Have fun.

—Dan M. Reiland, D.Min., Lawrenceville, Georgia.