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Are You Having A Long Enough Retreat?

Posted: January 24, 2022

In the process of planning a retreat for your ministry or organization, one key question will be, “What length should I plan for this intentional time away from the routine of everyday life?” The answer to this question really depends upon several variables that you should consider depending on your ministries culture and community. 

Consider your outcome: In the routine of church or ministry life, there is a rhythm or pacing. Some people are a part of your ministry every time the doors are open, while others are there depending on work and seasonal schedules. Even in routine attendance the time for growth and connection can be limited. People rushing to be on time, participating in a programmed service, and then rushing off to what’s next. In a calendar year of Sundays, it may be difficult to even find 48 hours of key relational time for those in your ministry to connect. Finding a time to getaway for two nights will potentially give your temporary community close to 48 hours together to build stronger bonds than a years worth of Sunday morning “in passing” conversations 

Consider your target audience: For adults who have work responsibilities during the week, and family responsibilities on weeknights and the weekends, it may be challenging to get away for longer than 1 night. However if you are planning for youth or families, recognize that an increased time away provides for uninterrupted time to build on relationships. The longer you create a temporary community in an intentional retreat setting; the tighter the bonds can be generated through a common, shared experience. When returning to the “real world” the times of coming together on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights will be met with closer relationships of those who attended the retreat. 

Consider the season: Every community and region has a culture that can impact planning retreats. High School youth retreats during football season in many communities would impact attendance and the ability for multiple nights away. However for that same audience multiple nights away during the winter season may make it more feasible with less conflicts. Families can always find themselves too busy, and often will have to make a choice to prioritize time away. For families, consider multiple nights away around summer breaks, or longer breaks during the school year like spring or fall breaks. These longer times give space for parents to disengage from the logistics and lean into building bonds and memories with their children. 

In the end there isn’t a one size fits all length for retreat. Often retreat planners find the end comes too soon, and the people attending already start talking about “next time”, or “when we come back, I want to…” These are sure signs that retreats and breaking away from the routine of everyday ministry is a key rhythm that needs to be a part of your annual calendar.