The Benefits of Attending a Retreat - Be Yourself

by WordChazer

Church retreats are seen as stuffy, old fashioned and austere. I'm here to tell you they are a great way to recharge, relax and unwind. Think of them as spa weekends for the soul.

My husband and I arrived back earlier from the church retreat. We drove to a country club hotel in rural Berkshire, England, joining there with most of the church congregation and their families to hear a series of talks from Mike Pilavachi, the evangelical speaker and author. We also took part in worship and healing services, prayer and small group sessions.

So what are the benefits of attending a retreat, especially one based at a country club hotel? Well, first of all, you are looked after. You leave your chores at the door. No cooking, no washing up, no laundry, no cleaning. That leaves you free to concentrate on you and your inner peace.

Hotel Style Care: Everything on Tap

You’re in a hotel. So you have a standard hotel room and amenities at your disposal. At the country club there was a gym, a swimming pool, a selection of walking trails, an outdoor adventure area, a golf course and more. Tea and coffee machines dotted the communal areas, there were snack machines and several bars. Two computer terminals were located in the communal area near reception and there was free wifi connection throughout the hotel for laptops and smartphones.

Your cleaning is done for you. Beds are changed daily and fresh towels for the bathroom provided on demand. Every room has a kettle, glasses and mugs plus a supply of teabags, coffee sachets and sugars. There is also an ironing board and iron as standard.

No worries about food. Three meals a day in the restaurant, cooked and served by a team of commercial chefs. Multiple courses and multiple choice including a vegetarian option as standard and catering for dietary requirements by prior arrangement.

No worries about bills. Once you’ve paid for the room or event, it seems like everything else except alcohol and the snack machine is free. You can shower as much as you like, turn the heat in your room up or down according to your preference. You can drink tea all day (I know, I did!) and eat as much as you like at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

At this hotel, the beds were very comfortable, which permitted two good nights’ sleep, and the only complaints seemed to be from some of the singletons who would have preferred to have had a room alone, but were required to share a twin room for logistical reasons.

More from Mike Pilavachi

Spiritual Needs are Not Neglected

Apart from the affairs of the body, at a retreat your spiritual needs are taken care of too. The one we attended was organized to the last degree, such that when Reverend Pilavachi overran in the pre-lunch talk on Saturday, everything else ran late for the rest of the day, because every minute was taken care of if you wanted it to be.

Typically, a retreat will open with an introductory talk on the first evening, probably the only organized activity for that night, to allow latecomers to arrive in peace rather than pieces. The serious presentations and teaching will begin the next morning, meaning that everyone can have a good night’s sleep first so as to be refreshed and ready to benefit from the Word.

Attendance at any talk or service was entirely voluntary, and there was plenty space for those who wanted to be alone to be so, as I found on Saturday afternoon and evening. The way this retreat was organized allowed for families to take their under-10s to special events run by the youth church pastors before joining the rest of the congregation for the talks and services. There was also a specialist youth church for the teens and a students’ program reflecting the fact that a good quarter of the congregation were at University in the city. That meant that the parents could enjoy the talks without worrying that their children were bored, which immediately lightened the tone of their weekend. A childminding service was offered for the evenings so that the youngsters kept to their normal routine and the parents could attend the Friday and Saturday night events worry-free. Meantime the students organised ultimate frisbee competitions, gaming tournaments and an insomniacs' quiz (at 11pm) among other events.

Over the course of the weekend, Mike Pilavachi covered topics including prayer, prophecy, evangelism and healing in a series of talks. Not everyone attended all of them, but most people chose to attend most of them.

Prayer, Prophecy, Fellowship and Healing

Throughout the weekend there were opportunities to mix and mingle with other members of the congregation or to leave and return to a session as required. In most of the talks there was some sung worship, some laying on of hands and testimonies given, whether one-on-one or to the assembled congregation. There were chances to cry, to sing, to shout and to laugh. Much talking was done and many people felt the working of the LORD in their lives for various reasons. Some spoke of words and pictures the LORD had given them, others told of relief from long-term physical and mental struggles. It was a great chance to spend more time with people you would otherwise only see for an hour or so a week, to get to know them better, to spend quality fellowship time with them.

All this added up to a weekend where you could check real life at the door. You could cry and not be seen to be a baby. You could avoid the housework, additional bills, cooking, ironing, whatever it was that normally blighted your day. You could sit and listen to someone speak or you could choose to stand up and take an active part in the prayer or testimony. You could even, as I did on Saturday afternoon, decide that you’ve had enough of everyone’s company and you need some downtime to pull yourself together. That worked too, and no one asked any questions when I ran away to the room for most of the afternoon and evening. My head was buzzing and I couldn’t hear myself think, never mind hear anything the LORD might have been trying to say to me.

All in all, a retreat is a great addition to life, whether you have faith or not. I’ve even heard of authors deciding to go and stay in a hotel when a deadline is looming, in order to distance themselves from the usual distractions of life at home and focus their minds on their work.

Focus. That’s what it is.

A retreat allows you to change your focus on life.

It’s not quite as carefree as a holiday, but it is generally with people you choose to be with and whose company you enjoy. Just for 48 hours you can forget the day-to-day worries and focus on yourself and your inner peace. Tomorrow reality will intrude again, but tonight, your thoughts are elsewhere, giving a chance for rest, relaxation and reflection. And who knows, maybe the glow will last until that important meeting, that presentation next week, that interview. And you’ll ace it as a result of being more rested, more confident, more at ease with yourself.

Thumbnail photo from Wikimedia Commons, released into the public domain by user Cody escadron delta in 2010.

Updated: 12/09/2013, WordChazer
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blackspanielgallery on 08/06/2017

I am not certain all retreats are alike. Some are in special retreat houses, and such things as a gym are considered a distraction. One can walk in a peaceful place, read, and so on, but to really get a total religious experience one must be away from such things as television. This may be a function of the sponsoring religion.

DerdriuMarriner on 08/05/2017

WordChazer, What was the insomniacs' quiz about?

WriterArtist on 04/20/2014

I like the idea of a spiritual retreat. It is a must - the soul definitely needs a break. What better than a church retreat for peace of mind, I certainly vouch for it.

WordChazer on 04/13/2014

They certainly do, SheilaMarie, especially as ours was of the type where we didn't have to participate in every event.

sheilamarie on 04/13/2014

Retreats help you recharge your batteries.

VioletteRose on 03/24/2014

I agree with you, retreats are needed to focus on inner peace and be away from day to day worries. Very nicely written!

cmoneyspinner on 02/12/2014

I wholeheartedly agree. Retreats are a great way to recharge.

WordChazer on 01/05/2014

I wanted to as well, until I had to retreat from the retreat!

April_M on 01/05/2014

I'd love to go on a retreat.

WordChazer on 12/13/2013

I thought it was going to be far less organised than it turned out to be too. Hence why I wanted to take a break for a bit. Given the wide variety of people that the church attracts, no one raised an eyebrow at it either, which was good. We have people with all kinds of mental and physical impairments in the congregation and we all reacted in differing ways to spending more time together than we usually do. Yes, OK, for me retreating from the retreat involved finding a quiet place to undertake some freelance editing, but I needed to focus myself and that's the best way I know of. Socialising in large groups can make me look and feel like a scared rabbit in headlights, which is not good for me at all. Plus the headache and stress thus induced is totally at odds to the aim of the retreat in the first place, of course!

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