I finished leading a men’s retreat on Saturday and began thinking about the value of retreats in the spiritual life. I have put together a list of why retreats are helpful for individuals and for groups.
1. Usually involves nature – You certainly could have a retreat in a high rise building or in some hotel but there is a reason that retreat centers and Christian camps are usually found in remote or rural settings. We all barely notice nature in the rush of our normal lives and just being forced to pay attention to the created world around us starts to change our perspective on life.
2. It is quiet – I am not just speaking about a natural quiet but also quiet that involves limited distractions and needless noise. The hold that electronic devices and computers have on us in our normal existence seem somewhat silly in a retreat environment. This allows us the space to listen to God.
3. Theme oriented – For a weekend retreat, we only had three sessions but they had somewhat of a connection and they came one right after another. The theme of the weekend and the lessons learned stayed at the front of your mind. It was just intense enough to keep you engaged in the topic and the ideas of the sessions. You were forced to deal with the themes in some way.
4. Community – There is certainly great impact that can come from private or personal retreat but a retreat with a small group of people can build a bond that is very profound and meaningful. There are ideas and insights that can come through sharing together that would not have been possible alone. I bonded with the guys that attended our retreat this past weekend and it was just as much of a spiritual bond as it was a communal bond.