By Steven Stuckey

Making Space for God Retreat Day

This workshop can be done in about one hour. Consider doing it during the first hour of a retreat day that you lead with your staff team. The goal of the workshop is to help staff members create the pattern of their own retreat day that they would do on a regular basis. InterVarsity staff members that I meet with each week tell me they would like to take time to pray and reflect but few actually do. Busyness, lack of discipline, and lack of understanding of how to spend a day with the Lord are the main obstacles they face. As an area director, lead by example. Schedule a retreat day once per month for yourself and then ask members of your team to join you to help you be faithful to your commitment to reflect and pray.

The handouts provided can be printed and put into a workbook for your team members.

Introduction

Welcome and greet the members of the team.

Goals for the day

  1. Discuss why a monthly retreat day is good and necessary for an InterVarsity staff member
  2. Explain the components of a retreat day.
  3. Give team members a chance to shape the day to fit their needs.
  4. Do a retreat day together.

Do this:

  1. Ask the following: What helps you stay connected to Jesus so that you operate from a place of peace and hopefulness? (5 minutes)
  2. Ask the following: What hinders your from staying connected to Jesus so that you operate from a place of anxiety, fear, or superficiality? (5 minutes)

Review the Workbook

Download and  distribute the workbook pages to your team members. Take turns reading through the pages so that the  staff understand the flow of the day. Discuss questions or share tips along the way. (30-40 minutes to review the workbook)

Introduction (page 1)

Retreat days help keep God’s servants spiritually and emotionally healthy. These days have four purposes.

Look—We are usually so future focused that we miss the signs God gives to us of his presence. A retreat day is the chance to look back, review your life, and give thanks for His activity. It is a chance to move from grumbling to gratitude.

Listen— God is speaking to us regularly but rarely do we hear him. We are too busy, too distracted, too tired, too anxious, or too self absorbed. A day of silence and solitude helps us search the Scriptures, sort our emotions, and listen for God’s voice amidst the clutter of daily living.

Pray—We are called to a spiritual work that requires the power of God’s Spirit for anything lasting to be accomplished. That power is discovered and released through prayer. A retreat day is a day to intercede for yourself, your family, and the people you serve.

Plan—How will you be your best, true self as you carry out your ministry duties for the next month? How will you function from a place where you are known, loved, and belong to the Lord? How will you avoid being routinely hijacked by your unruly emotions? How will you discern between the better and the best with how you use your time? Reviewing the disciplines that keep you centered during the upcoming month will help.

Preparation Checklist (page 2)

Sleep—get a good night’s rest the day before, otherwise you will fall asleep the moment you close your eyes to pray.

Time- decide on your start and ending times. 10am-3pm works well for most people.

Location—chose a quiet location free of distractions. The library, public garden, or retreat center works well.

Others—consider inviting a friend to do the retreat day with you. Most people lack the discipline to complete the day on their own. A colleague can help you process your experience and pray with you at the end of the day.

Reading Materials—pack a bible, journal, and any devotional literature that you might enjoy reading.

Art material—if making art helps you connect with the Lord, bring it with you. Some enjoy photography; if so, bring your camera.

Food—pack a lunch, pick up something at Trader Joe’s, or bring money to buy lunch onsite. Bring a water bottle.

Weather—if you plan to be outdoors, check the weather forecast and dress accordingly.

Away From My Desk—the purpose of the day is to be free from distractions as much as possible. Let your friends know you will get back to them when you return.

Don’t Plan This- Don’t plan to write your next talk, your prayer letter, or set up donor appointments. This is a day with the Lord. You need Him far more than He needs you to be doing those things.

Settle Down Time (page 3)

After walking the dog, getting the kids off the school, answering email, and driving through rush hour traffic to get to the retreat site, you will need some space to settle down. Take 15-30 minutes to sit and calm yourself at the start of your retreat. Do the following:

  1. Breathe—take slow deep breaths from your diaphragm.
  2. Relax—start from your toes and move to your head to relax tense muscles.
  3. Pay Attention—to your surroundings. What do you see or hear in your environment that creates a pleasant feeling for you?
  4. Pray—use one of the opening prayers listed below or write your own prayer on the page provided.

From the Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozar

Lord, teach me to listen. The times are noisy and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sounds which continuously assault them. Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel when he said to Thee, "Speak, for thy servant heareth." Let me hear Thee speaking in my heart. Let me get used to the sound of Thy Voice, that its tones may be familiar when the sounds of earth die away and the only sound will be the music of Thy speaking Voice. Amen.

John Stott (1921-2011) Morning Prayer

“Good morning heavenly Father, good morning Lord Jesus, good morning Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father I worship you as the creator and sustainer of the universe. Lord Jesus, I worship you, Savior and Lord of the world. Holy Spirit, I worship you, sanctifier of the people of God. Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more. Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you. Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me. Amen.”

Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)

Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know,
To love what I ought to love,
To praise what delights thee most,
To value what is precious in thy sight,
To hate what is offensive to thee.
Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes,
Nor to pass sentence according to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men;
But to discern with a true judgment between things visible and spiritual,
And above all, always to inquire what is the good pleasure of thy will.

By Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. Amen.

Looking Back (page 4)

Action without contemplation will eventually make a follower of Jesus spiritually sick. One of three th ings may happen. First, a person will tend to overestimate the importance of their activity and underestimate the work of the Spirit. That will lead to spiritual blindness and exhaustion. Secondly, without regular reflection, a disciple tends to confuse the voice of their ego with the voice of the Lord leaving them vulnerable to their own disordered impulses. Thirdly without regular reflection we become demanders rather than grateful recipients. The Looking Back exercise is an important discipline to help us stay connected to Jesus.

Take some time to review your calendar from the previous month and read through your journal entries for that same time period. Answer the following questions in your journal:

  1. What events, people, experiences, or things you viewed or read stirred you or made an impression on you? Pay attention to what affects your energy.
  2.  What feelings were generated as a result? (E.g. anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, joy, envy, pride, etc.)  When have you felt those things in the past?
  3. Did you notice any common themes during the month?
  4. Note two or three items that you would like to speak further with the Lord about.
  5. What are you thankful for today? Be as specific as possible and focus your attention on today or yesterday.

Gratefulness (page 5)

Follow your time of looking back by intentionally thanking the Lord for what he has done for you. If you feel sleepy take a walk and pray. Below are a few quotes to encourage you to be thankful.

Gratitude takes nothing for granted, it never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder, and to praise of the goodness of God.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, page 42

Since Jesus was delivered to you as Christ and Lord, live your lives in union with him. Be rooted in him; be built in him; be consolidated in the faith you were taught; let your hearts overflow with thankfulness.

-Colossians 2:6-7, NEB

We give thanks to you, O God. We give thanks and call upon your name. We recount your wonderful deeds.-Psalm 75:1, A New Translation

Gratitude… is the response to grace. The compassionate life is a grateful life, and actions born out of gratefulness are not compulsive but free, not somber but joyful, not fanatical but liberating. When gratitude is the source of our action, our giving becomes receiving and those to whom we minister become our ministers.

-Henri Nouwen, Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life

The search for God summons us to a certain detachment from the objects which delight us, to appreciate beauty without attempting to possess it or cling to it or the delight which beauty rouses. This restraint is helped by the realization that detachment enriches and deepens appreciation.

Christopher Bryant in The Heart in Pilgrimage

I am grateful for my handicaps, for through them I found my world, my self, and my God.

Helen Keller

Engaging Scripture (page 6)

The important thing on a retreat is not how much we read or what insights we add to our store of Biblical knowledge.  Rather, what is important is that we are able to enter through our minds and descend into our hearts.  Depth rather than quantity is what is sought; meeting with God rather than only learning about him.  As James exhorts us, "Humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." (Ja. 1:21) We want the Word to sink deeper roots in us so that it might save and renew us, cleanse and free us, uplift and empower us. (Doug Stewart)

Recommendation:

Ask the Lord to guide you to a passage of Scripture that you can focus your attention on for the whole year. That passage could be a gospel story, parable, section of the epistles, a psalm, or Old Testament character. The passage needs to be short enough so that you can read it comfortably in one sitting and eventually memorize it—remember, less is more in this exercise. Plan to read the same passage at each of your monthly retreat days throughout the year. Study the passage inductively, meditate on it, pray through it, read commentaries about it, create artwork related to it, and journal what you discover.

Devotional Time (page 7)

The focus of this time is simply to be in the presence of Jesus. Try to be with him in the same way that he is with you. Try not to fret about what is undone from the past or worry about the future. There are various ways of using the time. Experiment to see what works for you.

Options

  • Devotional reading has a rich tradition of helping followers of Jesus become more like him for the sake of others. Of the thousands of books available, InterVarsity Press has some of the best in their Formatio line. Visit their website. Make a point to always have devotional reading material on hand and bring that with you.
  • If you don’t want to read a whole book, pick up Conversations Magazine, Leadership Transformation Journal, or some other journal and read an article.
  • Extend your time in Scripture.
  • Make Art
  • Take a walk
  • Pray
  • Sit and listen to the sounds of the garden. (if you are outdoors)
  •  If you are sleepy, take a nap.

Healthy Holy Habits (page 8)

During the last hour of the day, shift your attention from the present to the future. Think about these questions:

  • How will I be my best, true self as I carry out my ministry duties for the next month?
  • How will I function from a place where I am known, loved, and belong to the Lord?
  • How will I avoid being routinely hijacked by my unruly emotions?
  • How will I discern between the better and the best with how I use my time?

The Healthy Holy Habits Worksheet is designed to help you make plans in four areas of your life—God; Body-Mind-Emotions; Integrity; Primary Relationships. Read the questions under each section and identify one thing in each area that you will seek to do in the coming month. Write your answer in your journal. At your next Making Space for God Day review your progress and repeat the process. Also share your plan with one other person within the next 24 hours.

God

What will you do on a regular basis to grow in your relationship with God?

  • What spiritual disciplines will you practice?
  • Are you prone to certain areas of sin?
  • What helps you abide with Jesus?

Body-Mind-Emotions

  • What will you do on a regular basis to stay physically fit?
  •  How much sleep do you need?
  • What are your eating habits?
  • Do you have a health issue you must monitor?
  • What helps you stay emotionally balanced?
  • What do you do to renew your mind?
  • What mental junk food must you avoid?

Integrity

What and who helps you live in a way that your moral and sexual behavior is consistent with your beliefs and convictions?

  •  What will help you resist temptation to sin?

Primary Relationships

  • Who are the primary support relationships in your life and what will you do on a regular basis to strengthen them?

Benediction (page 9)

Close the day with one of these prayers or write you own on the paper provided.

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace."  Numbers 6:23-26 NIV

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Jude 1:24-25NIV

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:7-8 NIV

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

Prayer of St. Patrick 433 A.D

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

Do the Retreat

Send staff members off to do the retreat. Give them a time to regroup at the end of the day. If you want prayer partners to meet during the day, make those arrangements.

At the end of the day...

  • Put staff in groups of three and ask them to share briefly (five minutes per person) any insights they gained as a result of spending a day with the Lord.
  • Make sure individuals know the date of their next retreat day.
  • Say a prayer of blessing upon the group and depart.

Aditional Resources

Link to the article Silence and Solitude by Hallie Cowan

MS Manual-Web.pdf