Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Importance of a Retreat

This past month we took 75 students from our youth group on a fall retreat.  We were up in the Tennessee mountains, away from everyday life.  We did not even have cell phone reception.  We spent time praying before we left for the retreat that it would be a life-changing time for our students: that God would open up their eyes to the things that they needed to change in their lives so that God could be their top priority.  I was so busy thinking about the small group of girls who I lead and helping my husband get things ready for the trip that I did not even realize how much I would need this retreat. 

Life is busy.  We have things in our lives that have to get done.  We have to work, take care of children, do the laundry, go to doctor appointments, take our children to ballet recitals and soccer practice…we have things in our lives that we must tend to each day.  While we should be spending time in God’s Word each day amidst all of these activities, sometimes it’s hard to focus like we should.  We all so desperately need some time to get away from it all, not just for a “date night”, but for a few days.  We need time to put our lives on pause and to hear from God. 

So, how do we do this and what does this look like?

·        First, find a place to go. Find a conference where you can be challenged.  Research churches in a different city or listen to podcasts and find a challenging speaker.  Then, look for a conference where you can hear them speak.  Or, simply go to a church service somewhere else and commit to spending the other day in a quiet place, where you can read Scripture and pray.  This could be a good time to go somewhere with your spouse, but commit to spending time apart for prayer and to sit still before the Lord.  Or, perhaps you could serve as a youth volunteer at a camp.  Even though you may have other responsibilities during this time, you will still be provided with opportunities to be challenged as you spend time in worship, prayer, and opening God’s Word. 

·        Put your life on hold for a few days.  This means, do all that you can to remover yourself from technology.   We have to make a decision to leave everything behind so that we can focus on the most important thing. It may even seem uncomfortable at first.  Because we always have our cell phones and internet right at our fingertips, it’s a little uncomfortable to put it all behind.  But, once we begin to remove those distractions is when we realize our need for Christ and we can begin to give everything over to Him and ask Him what He wants for our lives.  This also means that you MUST find someone to keep your kids for a few days.  Children are such an incredible blessing, but we have to have time to get away by ourselves, where a child does not constantly need something.  Grandparents are great for this, but if that’s not possible then it may mean saving diligently for a babysitter or trading off with a friend. 

·        Spend time in Worship and learn from someone else.  Relax and soak up the words of another brother or sister in Christ.  Learn from them, take notes, think of ways you can apply the message to your life.  Worship Christ wholeheartedly.  Don’t worry about the person next to you, but focus on Him alone. 

·        Spend some time alone with God.  Because we have the opportunity to be away from everyday life, we can spend some time uninterrupted with God.  No phone calls, no visitors, no little children waking up early from their naps…just time with God.  During this time, look at your life and begin to evaluate it. 

·        Ask yourself:

With what sins am I struggling?

What are my priorities right now?

What should my priorities look like?

Am I intentionally sharing the love of Christ with others?

What do I need to change so that Christ is first in my life?

·        After you have prayerfully considered questions such as these, spend some time confessing your sins and ask God to help you make Him first in your life.  Then, find someone with whom you can share your heart.  Tell them the things you want to change in your life and ask them to keep you accountable. 

·        Come back home rejuvenated.  I remember coming back home from our fall retreat.  Yes, I was exhausted because I had been with 6th-12th grade girls all weekend and had stayed up entirely too late chatting away with them.  But, I felt so alive and excited about the tasks to which God had called me.  I returned home with a new focus: it wasn’t about me anymore, it was about Christ. 

Once we have become Christians, Satan wants to do all that he can to keep us from being effective.  He wants to distract us and keep us inwardly focused.  If we are only focused on ourselves then we will not be focused on Christ or those around us.  I don’t want to live my life like that.  If we can take time to evaluate our lives and escape from the everyday, we can prayerfully consider what is holding us back and we can look at ways God wants to use us more effectively.  Then, we can commit to obeying Him. Yes, this requires money, time, and sacrifice, but what would happen if we made it a priority to have a retreat from life a couple of times per year? I think we would all be more purposeful, less stressed, and more effective. 

What will you do for your retreat?

Note of Thanks: We are so thankful for Brian and Jennifer Mills for taking time to speak into the lives of our youth during our youth retreat.  God is using you both in mighty ways!

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