If you’re scratching your head trying to remember your last retreat, it was probably too long ago. Leaders in every capacity face challenges that require wisdom and deplete reserves. Regularly getting away for focused time with God is a Christ-like habit worth forming.

I was five or six years into full-time ministry when the fabric of my life started to fray. Call it stress, call it fatigue, call it time crunch – it was all of those and more. I had time to seek the Lord personally, but not for ministry matters. I occasionally read books, but not nearly to the degree I desired. I craved an extended period where God and I could interact on issues of life and ministry.

When I sought the counsel of a few seasoned leaders, to a person they recommended regular retreat days to hole up with God. They suggested all kinds of possible components, but I’ll never forget what one pastor said. “Lisa, whatever you do, don’t try to overproduce in those days. If you get tired mid-afternoon, take a nap for goodness’ sake!”

Ha – did he ever read me right! I was already picturing how much visioning and planning I could cram into two whole days away from the office. Thanks to his advice, on my first retreat when yawns came more frequently than good ideas, I took a snooze smack dab in the middle of the day.

Criteria for Planning & Taking Retreats

1. Length and frequency. Assess the season you and your ministry are in, and determine what degree of “retreating” is needed for the sake of the ministry’s health and momentum.

2. Board approval. Share your rationale and plan with your board, and ask them to weigh in on the concept and give their blessing.

3. Staff coverage. Explain the retreat’s purpose to your staff and adjust project flow to accommodate your time away.

4. Commitment. In the days leading up to a retreat, it can be tempting to skip it because of the mountain of work on your desk. Remain steadfast in getting away.

5. Reporting. Afterwards, write up a brief summary of your retreat for the board, including insights you’ve gleaned for various aspects of the ministry.

3 Basics of a Personal Retreat

So there you are at Beautiful Lake Retreat Center. Your bags are unpacked and you’re ready to go. Instead… pause, drink in your surroundings, and ask the Lord to direct your steps. That’s the key to every retreat (and actually every work day) – being led by God’s Spirit as you put your hand to the plow.

1. Prayer. Connecting with God is the primary reason you’re on the retreat, so follow His lead in prayer, Bible study, and worship. Keep the relational aspect prominent, instead of being with God in order to make headway for the ministry.

2. Planning. All good planning flows from God – whose thoughts and ways are greater than ours. So allow visionary thoughts and strategic plans to naturally follow your communion with God. For instance, He may download a great plan while you’re worshiping or while you’re reading a seemingly unrelated passage of Scripture.

3. Partying. Alliteration aside, there is God-designed purpose in kicking back and relaxing. God Himself took a full day to rest. Explore and enjoy your new surroundings – even if it’s snowy or raining outside. Observe the sights and take pictures with your phone or camera. Do a creative project indoors. Jesus invites us to come to Him and find rest for our souls.

Over the past 25 years, there’s never been a year that I haven’t taken a personal retreat. Typically, there are several a year, and they often involve an overnight. As our ministry has grown, they’ve included members of our leadership team which broadens discernment. Offsite retreats keep you on track with your loving Father and His wisdom for your ministry.

“Offsite retreats keep you on track with your loving Father and His wisdom for your ministry.”

- Lisa Hosler

What’s a benefit you’ve reaped from personal retreats? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

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