Aug 22

The need to retreat to advance

The busier I seem to find myself becoming, the harder it is to stop and yet the irony is that in order to be able to handle the busyness, stopping is exactly what I need to do.

I first discovered this a few years ago when I was the youth pastor at St Stephen’s Church, Twickenham. I had been there a few years, was starting to see growth in the youth ministry and, with growth, became an increasingly fully diary. The reality was that my work was stopping me properly connect with God in my quiet times as my prayers became more about getting through the day than spending time as a child in his father’s presence. I decided I needed to book myself a day’s retreat; to get away, to pray and to listen to God. It brought me back in touch with my heavenly father.

Bill Hybels, founder of Willow Creek, says ‘beware of the work you do for God destroying the work he wants to do in you’. We need to take regular time out to spend with God, to remind ourselves that our primary relationship is with God. After all, we are human beings not human doings.

Here are five reasons I have discovered why I need to take a regular retreat day:


1. It stops you thinking you are the solution to everyone’s problems

Now I am sure you read this and think that this doesn’t describe you but I know it sometimes describes how I feel I ought to be. As different situations crop up I want to be able to help, to enable people to make decisions, to have the right answers for their questions, and that I am in some way letting them down if I can’t. Retreating reminds us that it is Jesus who is the answer not me!


2. It reconnects you with your heavenly father on a deeper level

A retreat day is different from a prayer day where you pray through your work issues or seek God’s vision for your ministry. It is also not a day for developing strategy, although both kinds of days are important. A retreat day let’s you disconnect from the busyness of life and simply be. As I withdraw from the ordinary, by reading some Scripture, by chatting with God, by resting in his presence, I feel God encouraging me and restoring me.


3. It restores right perspective

Busyness brings with it tiredness and I know that when this comes everything becomes a big issue for me, even the choice of icebreaker for the next youth group meeting becomes a matter of life and death! Whilst a retreat day isn’t long enough to restore my tiredness (that’s what holidays are for) it is long enough to reconnect with God and see my life through his eyes. It gives me time to allow him to speak into my life, to challenge me and to encourage me.


4. It will build your confidence in what God is calling you to do

By spending more focused time with God I get a better understanding of who he has made me to be. I feel the loving arms of the Father around me as I feel the freedom which the sacrifice of the Son enables me to have, and I allow the Holy Spirit to equip me for the works that he has prepared for me to do. I cannot do everything there is to do, but I can do everything that God wants me to do.


5. We are imitating Jesus

Paul says ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1). If I want young people to know how to live as children of God, I need to show them by my lifestyle and example. Jesus regularly spent time alone with God, I must do the same.


Right, I’m off now to put some retreat days in my diary for the year ahead!

What have been your experiences of taking a retreat day?  Leave a comment below.