Christians at universities popularly seek the presence of God in retreats – heading to camp sites, rural churches , or outdoorsy camps to seek God in motivational speakers, great worship bands, and some much needed time away from our iPhones, computers, and facebook profiles.
We bond with the people in our cabins and groups, and we seem to get deeper and more personal with each other during those two or three days than we ever could have in “real life” (even though its the same people, just a different setting). Everything and everyone glow with the promise of a renewed spiritual life, a sweeter and more intimate connection with God, and a bigger impact on those around us when we get back to real life.
The term “real life” is tossed around a lot at retreats. The speaker warns, “It won’t be so easy in real life,” and the worship pastor says “It’s harder to find peace to worship God in real life” and both of these statements are true. However, they only enforce what we know to be true about retreats: they have to end.
It’s harder for leaders of missional communities to facilitate growth, bonding and spiritual friendship when the students are not secluded at a camp in the middle of nowhere with no cell coverage. As I led at the Baylor Spiritual Life’s Freshman Retreat several weeks ago, I found that retreats can pack a much deeper message when we bring what God revealed on retreat back with us to “real life.”
Bringing the Retreat to “Real Life”
We form missional communities in retreats quickly and deeply. Suddenly terrifyingly honest and real and intense friendships blossom among students who previously had never met. However, the question for those of us in leadership is, how do we bring what was learned in those retreats back to real life?
I believe the answer is intentionality. Being intentional is what allows those missional communities to thrive and grow. When we seek out students we met on retreat and ask them to have lunch or coffee, we are loving them actively. Love is not passive, even though we treat it as such much too often. Love is an active, breathing, doing lifestyle that should affect the way we interact. Retreats can intersect “real life” when we are loving each other proactively.
Simply put, we need to seek each other out and do life together, reaching past the afterglow of the speaker’s message at retreat. As leaders, we need to facilitate that connection by loving our students intentionally, encouraging developing friendships.
Finding a Retreat On Campus
We sometimes stray into over-involvement, encouraging students to get involved with small groups, church, Wednesday night services, Christian volunteer organizations – forgetting the importance of reflection and peaceful afternoons of one-on-one time with God. As leaders of missional communities, we need to encourage students to take time out from those communities.
Everyone needs peace and a silent retreat, where we can cry out, revel in, and be real with God. The only way we can bring a missional community from a Christian retreat to “real life” is by taking the retreat to campus at least once a week.
We can choose to get away from those hectic schedules, buzzing iPhones, and constant social calendar and just be. Sometimes, we find the most out about ourselves by simply being with God. Let’s encourage our missional communities to take time out and just be. Let’s encourge those around us to bring that retreat to real life, to do life together, and to love each other more deeply.
Callie Hyde is an honors student at Baylor University. She writes for a blog called Sincerely, Callie (www.sincerelycallie.com) and is part of Baylor Spiritual Life’s Freshman Retreat, a small group leader at Highland Baptist Church, a Green’s Scholar, and co-creator of Open Book, a group for Baylor freshmen that encourages fellowship and faith with other Christians seeking mentorship and friendship.