In today’s fast-paced, demanding world we expect that anything that requires our time and money better be worth it! Taking a day or overnight retreat as a staff costs money, and is time away from the ministry: the never-ending people demands of building God’s Kingdom. No matter how our ministry stretches and consumes us, none of us can claim to be any busier or more challenged than Jesus and the original Twelve. Yet, after they had been about their travel, teaching, preaching, and healing a long time, Jesus said to his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:30-31)
The Master extends that invitation to all the workers in His vineyard. Ministry, whether in school or parish, depletes our gifts, and to continue to be vital disciples, we need to replenish them. Heavy time demands, an erratic schedule, long meetings, difficult interactions with people, frustration with disappointing results of our efforts, all add up to make ministry an emotionally draining experience. Often we are so depleted, there is not much time or energy left for our own families. Even work that we love can burn us out.
Ministry flows from a personal and developing relationship with the Lord. That relationship must be nourished through prayer and ongoing spiritual formation. A pastor or principal would be remiss in his/her leadership if the spiritual growth of his/her staff were not a priority. Too often spiritual enrichment is set aside in favor of budget meetings, event planning, cluster strategic planning, or just the everyday demands of “people-tending”. Each member of the staff is on a spiritual journey towards union with God. His/her call to ministry flows out of that primary relationship. Neglecting it ripples through a person’s life, and diminishes his/her ministerial effectiveness. A spiritually famished staff does not bode well for the overall mission of the school or parish.
On a retreat day both individual and group spiritual growth can take place. A good retreat facilitator designs opportunities for both. Sound theological and spiritual input stretches our vision of God. We pause to reflect and talk to the Lord about our relationship. We share our individual faith with each other and come to a new awareness of who we are together as Church. This simple, yet profound process requires freedom from distraction, silence, and prayer to be effective.
When staff members come together to reflect and pray, we step out of our usual roles and relate to one another as children of God. As we share our faith, we form new aspects of relationship and community that will strengthen us to meet the challenges of our shared ministry. We become more fully the one body of Christ in the world.
Regularly scheduled staff retreat days or overnights do cost significant amounts of time and money. However, refreshed, gifted, vital disciples in love with the Lord and renewed in their relationship with Him, are effective and dynamic workers in the vineyard. Jesus knew this, and his saying this was deemed important enough to be passed down in the oral tradition of his life and teachings. His words were ultimately written down in Mark’s gospel to be passed on to us. Hadn’t we better have ears to hear Jesus’ invitation to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.”?
Take rest: a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.