Milestones are the significant cultural and developmental markers that we experience throughout our lives. They are our firsts. Growing in faith is not just a Sunday morning activity. It’s part of all we are and all we do as God’s beloved people. But there are firsts, milestones, rights of passage with specialness wrapped around those firsts in a lots of ways. We have prepared an ordered format of FAITH MILESTONES to have intentional firsts throughout a student’s experience in our ministry with children at WC. The Deep & Wide Retreat is our first retreat.
A retreat is time away from our normal life for the purpose of connecting with God on a deeper level. Faith is formed through personal and trusted relationships and times of stretching and challenge. Jesus started with a few disciples who gathered in their homes so A Day Away At Ms. DeDe’s seemed the perfect setting for a first retreat to do some soul training for my rising 4th and 5th graders. We invited a colleague to bring her rising 4th-5th graders to join us for greater large/small group dynamics.
Location: Ms. DeDe’s home. I live 40-50 minutes north of our church community in a subdivision with a reservoir and a community pool. Opening my home to my family of faith is table life that I love.
Time: 10am-9pm, Tuesday in July
Scripture Focus: Ephesians 3:17-18
What to bring: A bag to carry everything in (we did some moving from place to place and keeping up with your own belongings is a life skill), swim suit, towel, pen, bible, highlighter, 3 skipping rocks (just a little something odd to add to the list), walking shoes, bag of favorite candy for popcorn bar (which we enjoyed after the movie debrief.)
PreRetreat to do: Sit down with Mom/Dad and get answers to the following questions and be ready to share (we used these as the jumping off points in small groups for learning how to extend hospitality by being able to start and continue a conversation. And anytime I can encourage my families to have faith conversations, I’m in!)
1. How did you get your name?
2. What is your first memory of church?
3. When you talk on the phone, it’s a habit to have a visual image in your mind of who you are talking to. When you pray, the same thing could happen. What does God/Jesus look like in your mind when you pray?
4. What are some faith practices of your family from birth to now?
5. What is an experience that let you know that God is real?
10am: Arrival/Introduction Games – Name Wave (say your name and do a motion – everyone repeats the name and motion one at a time moving around the circle until everyone has introduced themselves and everyone has said everyone’s name); Hand Who?(invite each student to draw an outline of his/her hand on the journal given to each one, then for each finger write something interesting: thumb-something you do well/thumbs up, first finger-something that makes you stand out from a crowd, middle finger-something that frustrates you/pet peeve, ring finger-something you are committed to/passionate about, pinkie finger-a little known fact.) Then, we broke up into 2 groups by church to share.
10:30-11:30 Session 1 – Soul Training: Holy Habits…devotion & journaling & bible study…The most important thing a human being does is to love God. (A Good And Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith) We handed out Mood Rings (amazon.com) that change color according to the mood of the wearer. What if someone made ‘love-of-God’ rings indicating the level of love the wearer feels for God? And what if everyone had to wear them? What color would yours be?
Ephesians 3:17-18 God’s love is wide (covers all of our experiences and the whole world), long (continues the length of our whole lives), high (rises to the heights of our celebration and elation), and deep (reaches to the depths of discouragement, hurt feelings, despair, death/loss, feelings of being shut out or isolated.) We shared examples of each. Our soul training and holy habits are expressions of how wide, long, high, and deep OUR LOVE is for God. Took 15 minutes of silence to journal what we thought/felt.
11:30-12:30 Session 2 – Soul Training: Counting Your Blessings…picked up sandwiches and goodies for lunch prepared by our church partner and hiked to the reservoir’s edge to make a list of 100 blessings. A good way to remember that God loves us is to make a list of His blessings. In increments of 10, it’s an elephant we can eat when we take one bite at a time. (ex: reading your bible all the way through). Categories: 10 people who love you, 10 colors (God saw fit to give us more than one color), 10 items of nature that show we serve a God of order (much easier when we sat outside at the reservoir’s edge,) etc.
12:45-1:15 Session 3 – Soul Training: Play…hiked back to the pool and swam for 30 minutes. The gospel/good news includes an invitation to a great adventure.
1:25-3:30 Session 4 – Soul Training: Play…went to a movie: Inside Out. We play because God is good. God wants us to be full of joy, and play is a way to experience the goodness of God and the richness of life. When we play, we are training our bodies and souls to live with genuine excitement. (A Good And Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith)
3:30-4:15 Session 5 – Soul Training: Trust…movie debrief. Discussion in large group of our gift of emotions when did you have to ‘put your fear in your pocket’ and be stretched?
4:15-5 Session 6 – Soul Training: Table Life…popcorn bar and hangout time
5-6 Session 6 – Soul Training: Hospitality…We are called to be a witness to the good news by speaking and greeting others. We learned how to engage in conversation/tossing the ball back and forth in large group. Then broke up into 3 smaller groups to stretch our natural tendencies to talk only about ourselves and practice carrying on a conversation using the 5 pre-retreat questions.
6-6:45 Session 7 – Soul Training: Service…My team made deep dish pizzas and wide fruit salad for supper while the other team made handmade cards for each church’s shut-ins. We shared what a shut-in was and what to write to someone you don’t know, but want to encourage in the Lord. When my team finished their task, they, too, made and wrote cards to our church’s shut ins.
6:45-7:30 Session 8 – Soul Training: Table Life…ate dinner!
7:30 to the pool…
We were stormed out at the pool, so we played on the playground eating dessert until the lightning started. Our partner church returned to their church. We headed back to my house for a rowdy game of Apples to Apples until their parents came to pick up.
Our first retreat was everything I had hoped and more. I got to share my home and heart with the students who God has gifted me for a season. We laughed, were stretched, worked, served, hoped, challenged, helped, shared, and made memories. Spiritual and sticky memories are what I like best!