Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Various thoughts about retreats

I just got the almost final roster for our high school retreat that is happening this coming weekend. The final numbers are 223 students from GCC, about 30 some from a guest church and some hundred or so volunters, including a kitchen crew, ropes course crew, speaker, nurse, and on site prayer team. Wow, that is nuts!
I'm on the onsite prayer team, that will be praying for the entire duration of the retreat. I have a feeling its going to be a pretty wild experience.
I wrote more about it here.
I've been thinking - Why are retreats so significant? I think a lot of us can fondly remember retreats when we were younger. A group of friends, some amazing speaker, some big decisions.
I think it has to do with four things. First, it is an intense time. It may not appear that way on the outside but if you think about it, I think you will agree. People are excited about it for weeks before, there is a speaker that is thinking about this weekend for months before hand, and there are groups of people that have devoted their waking hours to all the schedules, food, lodging, transportation, etc.
When the students get there, they are intent on making the most of their time there. It cannot be anything but intense.
Secondly, its away from the normal. No tv, cell phone, movies, routine, class, homework, practices, etc. It is a total break from the normal. I think for a lot of students, it's also a very needed break from the normal.
Thirdly, students are immersed in community. The friends factor is huge for retreats. They invite them, arrange to room with them, spend all weekend long with their best friends.
Finally, there is usually some kind of ground breaking knowledge that leads to a decision or experience, and usually the community (or a subset of it) remembers the experience. "Hey remember on that retreat when you decided to break up with her?"
I have always thoguht that one of the dangers of retreats is coming back down off the spiritual high. We must help students deal with that, assisting them in living in the normal life and being motivated to live out Jesus call when they are engaged with the world.
It has me thinking even more about this idea of a spiritual environmentalist that Erwin writes about. How are we doing that - creating and shaping environments where we meet up with God. What are we doing with these precious students that allows us to come back home and still meet God in the norm? Because we all know that life is not meant to live on retreat.

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