With our annual Fall Retreat just around the corner we thought it would be valuable to look at why we go on a retreat, and why we chose our theme this year, “One Thing.”
Fall Retreat is a major event on the youth ministry calendar every year both in its size and in its impact. So, what’s so special about Fall Retreat? There are a few reasons I believe Fall Retreat has been so instrumental in the lives of students, and all of them can be applied to our lives outside of retreat.
First, Fall Retreat is a getaway from the daily routine. There is something about stopping, resting, or slowing down that helps us see things from a different perspective. There is always another project to be done, another person who wants to spend time, another anxiety that demands my thoughts, another chore that needs to get done, and if we don’t stop with regularity then we will find that the urgent things will overtake the important things in our lives. This is the first reason that Fall Retreat is valuable. It is a disruption to the daily routine, a sabbath from the work that needs to be done, and a new location that spurs on a different way of thinking. In our daily lives we may not always be able to take a three hour drive to a camp and stay for a week to accomplish this, but are we carving out a sabbath on a weekly basis? Do we take a break from our daily routines, get out of our normal spaces and intentionally spend time with God?
This leads to the second reason I think Fall Retreat works the way it does; Fall Retreat is intentional time devoted to God. It’s not just that we stop our normal busy routine, but its that we take our time and devote a much higher percentage of it to the Lord. I like to think of it like in a marriage – a couple should spend daily time with one another, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need a date night with regularity, and a vacation or extended time together on occasion to build a healthy relationship. In our relationship with Jesus we should be spending time with Him every day, but we should also be building in those “date nights” and “vacations” to build into our relationship with Him! Fall Retreat is designed to be an extended time devoted to building students relationships with Jesus.
This brings us to our third and final reason why Fall Retreat is valuable: At Fall Retreat we daily practice spiritual disciplines. Going back to the analogy of a vacation for a married couple, how would you plan a five-day vacation for you and your spouse? My guess is that you would fill it with things the two of you enjoy doing, time to rest, space for conversations and other things that you know will build into the relationship. In our faith we talk a lot about spending time with God and we mention things like prayer, reading the Bible, worshipping, journaling, etc. So, at Fall Retreat we build our schedule around intentional relationship building for our students with God first, and one another second. We have multiple times set aside for prayer, time for personal devotions in Scripture, time to memorize Scripture, multiple chapels where we worship in song and hear from God’s word, and time having fun building our community with one another.
Again, all of these things can be done on a regular or even daily basis, and that’s the point! I’ve had many students ask why they feel so much closer to God on retreat and my answer is always these three things. Are you taking time to daily be with Him like we do at retreat – in prayer, in the word, and in worship? Do you ever step away from the business of your week to devote time to Jesus? I don’t believe that God waits for us to get to Fall Retreat in order to be close to us, rather for some reason we seem to wait until an event like Fall Retreat to draw close to Him. Our students get to see what God can do when they take five days and fully pursue Him, and it’s amazing to see what God does in just five days! But here’s a challenging question: What if we were to take the other 360 days of the year and build a life that reflected Jesus being our top priority? It is so easy to become distracted, and busy with all that life puts on our plates, but being intentional to give more of ourselves to Jesus is always worth it! And that is exactly why we have chosen our theme this year as “One Thing!”
Our theme comes out of Psalm 27:4: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” With thousands of things competing for our attention, how do we make Jesus our “One Thing?” I’d like to end by asking you the same thing: In your life are you intentional with your relationship with Jesus that despite all that vies for your attention – He is your “One Thing?”