If you have been a Christian for very long, you’ve probably attended a group weekend retreat of some sort. While they have their own benefits, the solo personal retreat can perhaps give you more personal spiritual and ministry clarity.
The value of a solo retreat is that done well, you can drown out all of the world’s noise, both figuratively and literally. You should be able to get some much needed Sabbath type rest and really hear yourself think. You can have the peace and quite to step back and see how God is working in your life and what good works He may be preparing you to do.
Many Christians have found themselves overwhelmed ministering to all of those struggling with the COVID crisis. While others are enjoying new free time, you may find you have even less than normal. Add to that the many ministry shifts you had to make very quickly and your ministry can leave you feeling burned out physically, mentally and spiritually. When COVID ends, the people to whom you minister will probably expect you to continue ministering at full speed.
It’s critical that you make the time to have a solo spiritual retreat as soon as possible. If you continue ministering at this break neck speed without refilling your spiritual cup, you may find yourself struggling to do the simplest things.
The problem with a solo spiritual ministry retreat is that it’s not something that is commonly done. We aren’t really sure how to do one. There is also personality to consider…what works well for you may be counterproductive for me.
Which means you may have to do some introspective assessment in order to plan a solo spiritual retreat that will help you rest, heal, grow and plan. Don’t feel compelled to do something you know from previous experience just won’t work for you. For some people, it may take a few so-so solo retreats to find what helps you the most.
Here are some elements you should consider including:
- A safe, quiet, secluded place. In Atlanta, there’s a beautiful, low cost monastery that welcomes people of all faiths. You want to find a place where you feel safe, but there are few distractions like other people, TVs, computers, etc. If you need to have the retreat in your home, it can work with some healthy boundaries. Work with your family or housemates to give you the solitude and quiet you need for a couple of days.
- Your Bible and any study materials you regularly use. If you don’t have an app with multiple translations or there’s no WiFi at the location you have chosen, you may want to take a couple of versions with you.
- A Bible study or Christian book…or two or three. These should be studies and books that interest you or you believe may help you grow spiritually. These should not be books you are reading primarily to help or teach others.
- Notebooks, notebook paper, pens, markers, etc. As your cup begins to refill, you will find ideas coming to you. It’s nice to have a place to journal, capture new ideas, sketch out things, make lists, etc. How you use the items will depend a lot upon your personality, gifts and needs.
- Art or craft materials or a camera. There’s something about the creative process that works well within a Sabbath type rest. Your creative area might be music or cooking rather than arts or crafts. You don’t have to be good at it…just an activity that involves creating something and brings you joy.
- Comfy clothes and walking shoes. Comfort is more important than fashion in a solo spiritual retreat. Walking is a great way to clear your mind and connect with God through prayer.
- Whatever feels as if it will provide rest and restoration for you. Perhaps it’s your favorite music or a healthy snack. Maybe it’s a book to read just for “fun”. Maybe it’s a exercise mat for stretching exercises or a blanket for star gazing. If it’s been a long time since you’ve done things to stay spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically healthy, it may take some experimenting to know what works well. Take plenty of options since some may not work for you.
- A comfortable bed pillow, a box of tissues, etc. if you are having your retreat in an unfamiliar location, bring things from home that make you feel comfortable. If you can’t sleep at night or the feathers in the supplied pillow make you sneeze all day, you may too miserable to get the benefits from your retreat….you need to make sure your physical needs are met in ways that don’t leave you tired, hungry or grumpy.
A solo spiritual retreat sounds like an indulgence. It’s not. It’s what people involved in daily ministry need to be strong and healthy enough to do the good deeds God has prepared for you. Jesus spent plenty of time alone with God during his ministry on earth. He asked his disciples to rest after a busy period of ministry. It’s fair to say if he expected his apostles to do rest periodically, he understands how badly you need it too. Don’t wait until you have nothing left to give. Be proactive and take that solo spiritual retreat as soon as possible.