Friday, October 10, 2008


Dear friends,

Here's a little thing I wrote some time ago on this topic, for a church considering the regular practice of Staff Retreats:

1. Why go away on regular group retreats? In principle, because Jesus did (Luke 5:15-16), and encouraged his disciples to do the same (Mark 6:30-31). The first text suggests Jesus had sometimes something more important to do than the urgent tasks of teaching and healing (and leading). The second text has often been paraphrased 'Come apart and rest awhile; if you don't rest awhile you'll soon come apart.'

2. The primary purposes of a retreat for Christian leaders are to listen to God in silence and stillness, discernment of God's will ( )and to listen attentively to one another. Secondary purposes can include having fun (nothing wrong with that), and leadership skill/concept development.

3. The classic protocol surrounding our behaviour on such group retreats is that we do not invade the space and time with our special concerns about another person on the leadership team: those legitimate concerns are addressed in another time and place.

4. A by-product of a Staff Retreat, to use the hackneyed phrase, is 'team building'. In other words, our emphasis is not on the team-as-a-wheel - with all the spokes relating to the team leader - but rather the team-as-a-network, relating to one another.

5. We go away with an attitude of humility to 'let go'. Letting go, or the discipline of relinquishment, is absolutely essential if we are to be centred on God, and available to one another, rather than being focussed on our own concerns. In our Western individualistic world we are encouraged to be preoccupied with ourselves: my needs, my problems, my space, my desires, my problem with so-and-so. A retreat is outward-focussed, away from ourselves, in an attitude of self-forgetfulness rather than self-absorption.

6. Back to listening to God and to others: the spiritual masters talk about the Spiritual Discipline of 'not having the last word.' It's an essential discipline if we are to 'grow in grace'. It's about relinquishing control (resisting the devil), and submitting to God (James 4:7-8). It is all about being still and knowing that *God* is God.

7. How often? Probably, as a general rule, twice a year; alternating with private retreats - which can be solitary, or 'directed' by a spiritual companion.

Rowland Croucher

March 2005.