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Jesus' Retreat Formula    Printer friendly page

Helping church staff members find the rest they need

by Lloyd Mattson

You can find the story of the first church staff retreat in the sixth chapter of Mark. The event didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but retreats seldom do. However, if you read Jesus’ invitation carefully, you’ll find His formula for the ideal retreat venue.

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (Mark 6:30–31).

You know how the apostles felt. A new church year looms, and you’re far from ready. Endless promotions pile up on your desk. Cell phones buzz around you like mosquitoes. Your home phone rings just as your family sits down to eat dinner. You’re tired much of the time and so are your staff members. Finding a quiet place to get away would be great, but where?

Consider Jesus’ formula. “Come with me”—the person and purpose of Jesus is the agenda. “By yourselves”—the venue should provide privacy. “To a quiet place”—find a location as distraction-free as this frenetic world can provide. “And get some rest”—retreat in a place of serenity.

You won’t find these qualities at a motel, and you’ll rarely make them happen at church. People seek you out no matter how stern your rules. But there’s a venue not far away that comes close to Jesus’ ideal. It’s a Christian camp, conference center, or retreat center.

Consider what the camp setting offers for a one-day or overnight staff retreat: large and small meeting areas, communication tools, professional foodservice, comfortable sleeping accommodations, varied opportunities for recreation or quiet reflection between sessions, and reasonable pricing.

These qualities, which for decades have made camping a powerful tool for sharing the gospel message, will enrich your staff when it meets. Hours or days spent together in a quiet, outdoor setting will build a spirit of trust and friendship, bonding staff members to one another. This spirit will contribute more to your church than a finely tuned calendar.

You’ll blend rigorous work sessions with worship, prayer, and play. No retreat can cover all the bases, but your event can point leaders in the right direction, identify tasks, and stir creative juices. The camp setting allows almost constant group interaction with minimal distractions. The very ambiance of a Christian camp contributes to spiritual growth.

And there’s a corollary value: Taking your staff to the camp setting may encourage other individuals in the church to participate in outdoor ministry. Camps and conference centers are powerful allies of the local church, yet many youth and adults miss camping experiences because no one encourages them to attend.

As you plan your next staff gathering, contact a camp or conference center. The staff will work with you to tailor a plan to fulfill your needs. It’s hard to imagine another venue that will bring you closer to Jesus’ retreat formula.

Lloyd has served as a camp director and pastor, and has written or edited 28 books about Christian camping, including Christian Camping Today (The Wordshed). He lives in Minnesota with his wife, Elsie.

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