Suggested Retreat Topics
This is a list of suggested retreat topics that are requested again and again. Additional topics or customized content can be arranged at the request of retreat organizers.
Spiritual formation is conformation to the image of Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We cannot accomplish this ourselves, but only cooperate with the work of divine grace. We become like Christ by practicing the types of activities He practiced in order to be constantly in the fellowship of his Father: prayer, solitude, silences, gratitude, simple and sacrificial living, study and meditation on God’s Word, service to others.
Holy Paths retreats are experiential and interactive. They include appropriate spiritual disciplines and offer opportunities to cultivate spiritual rhythms which will result in greater knowledge of God and love of God’s people. Retreats are more formative than informative, incorporating teaching, small group discussion, nature walks, creativity, worship, and much quiet time for individual prayer and reflection.
1. A Holy Banquet for Hungry Hearts
Spiritual Disciplines du Jour: Scripture meditation (lectio divina), fasting, journaling, spiritual direction, keeping Sabbath, hospitality, and service.
“Abide in me, and I will abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4)
Many in the modern church are yearning for a deeper walk with Jesus Christ in the midst of an increasingly busy, complicated world. We know there is more to the abundant life than we are experiencing with endless demands on our time and energies at work and in the community, the home, and the church. Yet a deeper spirituality eludes us. Protestants are beginning to rediscover the ancient spiritual disciplines which give order and balance to life through solitude and community, rest and work, prayer and service. Joan Chittester describes spirituality as the way we express a living faith in a real world. It “does not set out to avoid life….but to live the ordinary life extraordinarily well.”
This retreat offers instruction and practical application of one or more spiritual disciplines. A good companion book for retreatants is Soul Feast, by Marjorie Thompson.
2. Filling Your Cup of Life
“We have this treasure in jars of clay…” (II Cor. 4:7)
A cup is a container that must sometimes be emptied out to make room for the new. Like a cup, our spiritual journey is a process of emptying and filling, of giving and receiving, of accepting and letting go. The contents of our lives are meant to be given and shared in a generous gesture of compassion, just as the purpose of a cup is to be poured out. Sometimes our lives reveal chips, stains, and flaws like any well-traveled cup – yet God is able to use us.
This retreat asks participants to bring a favorite cup with them or ideally offers them the
opportunity to create a cup from clay during the retreat. It is recommended that a group be offered weekly for six weeks following the retreat, using The Cup of Life, by Joyce Rupp, during daily devotionals.
3. Faithbooking: Telling Your Story
“Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to your children’s children. (Deut. 4:9)
God tells us over and over that we should remember what He has done for us and that we should teach others about Him. This retreat is designed to help you see and record God’s hand in your life. By recognizing Him in your past and present and by knowing He will continue to be in your future, your faith will grow and you will be on your way to discovering amazing joy and peace. By recording and sharing your stories, illustrated with photos and memorabilia, you’ll follow God’s command to teach others – influencing generations for Christ!
This retreat can last for a day or a week. The principles and techniques can be taught in three hours, but there is great benefit in allowing retreatants time to actually begin their writing with guided meditations and help along the way. There is a material fee which includes a Creative Memories album and minimal supplies and retreatants are asked to bring specific photos with them.
Good resources for this retreat include: To Be Told, by Dan Allender and Remembering Your Story, by Richard Morgan.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
What does that really mean for us today? Rather than a prohibition of what we cannot do, God intends it as a holy gift for us. So why is it so hard to receive His gift? The more work we do, the more we need to rest and to listen and to wait on God. Doing His (GOD’s) will should yield strength and joy, not exhaustion. In the midst of all our busyness, God invites us to take time to be still and listen for His (GOD’s) voice.
John Calvin says that the Sabbath calls the faithful to “refrain from their own works, in order to leave God to work within them.”
We suggest that you offer a 6-week follow-up group after the retreat, using Catch Your Breath, by Don Postema, as a resource to reinforce the principles of Sabbath.
5. Midlife: A Time for New Beginnings
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)
Midlife is defined more as a time of transition than a particular age. When women find themselves moving from one stage to another, it is always a time for celebrating what God has done and looking forward to what He (GOD) will continue to do in our lives. Mothers facing an empty nest, career women facing retirement or a restlessness to do something new, women facing new physical challenges or limitations – all are in midlife and in need of a safe time and place to face fears and limitations and explore what lies ahead. This retreat offers a balance of personal quiet time for reflection and group sharing. Participants often arrive with no hopes or plans for the future, only to discover hidden dreams that have been dormant for years.
An excellent companion book is Dear Heart Come Home: the Path of Midlife Spirituality by Joyce Rupp.
6. Praying the Psalms
The psalms of scripture provide an endless resource for our prayer life. Confession, praise, lament, anger, suffering…..every possible emotion is expressed by the psalmists!
In preparation, retreatants are asked to read a psalm each day and practice praying it back to God. This is how Christians through the centuries have matured in prayer. The retreat offers teaching on the psalms, in addition to opportunities for writing your own prayer/psalms.
In Answering God, Eugene Peterson asserts that “we cannot bypass the Psalms. They are God’s gift to train us in prayer that is comprehensive and honest.” Another excellent resource is Walter Brueggemann’s Spirituality of the Psalms.
This retreat models simplicity and is a time for quiet reflection and periodic group sessions to consider practical ways God calls us to simplify our lives. Suggested readings have included Gift of the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster. He writes: “The Christian discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style. Both the inward and the outward aspects of simplicity are essential.”
8. Monastery Contemplative Retreats
Abbey retreats are silent, unstructured and undirected. Our focus is usually on discerning God’s call for the coming months and discovering ways to be still and hear God’s still, small voice in the midst of our busy lives. We have been to Gethsemane, KY, Mepkin Abbey, SC, Conyers, GA, and Culman, AL.
Recommended resources: A Good Life: Benedict’s Guide to Everyday Joy, by Robert Benson, and Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day, by Steindl-Rast and Lebell.
9. Time Out for Moms!
Whether a day or weekend, mothers savor time to be still and focus on their walk with God. Topics include how to experience God in the chaos of raising a family and how to plan ahead for the coming season, considering each child’s needs in addition to marriage and personal needs.
10. Liturgical Retreats
“The Circle of Life: Beginning by Waiting” – Advent
“I wait for GOD, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope…” (Ps. 130:5)
Advent is a time of waiting, of preparation for the coming of the Messiah. “What does it mean that Jesus Emmanuel is ‘with me’?” and “How can I wait for and experience Jesus’ presence during Advent in practical ways?” We are all called to wait for God on our faith journey. Why? How? This retreat explores the Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting, described by Holly Whitcomb:
- Trust in God
- Loss of control
- Living in the present
“The Circle of Life : Marked by Ashes” – Ash Wednesday
Also called, “Spring Cleaning,” this retreat is designed to prepare us for Lent. The emphasis is on fasting – giving up food, media, work, or anything that comes between ourselves and God in a discipline of self-denial. Dallas Willard says, “How often have we neglected to remember God’s presence when we would never consider neglecting to eat! Fasting brings us face to face with how we put the material world ahead of its spiritual Source.”
11. Living as Covenant Community
“Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ….” (I Cor. 12:12)
To form a genuine community takes intentional and committed effort. Jesus’ life revealed a balance of solitude and community, leading to ministry – the kind of wholeness that we long to experience in our own lives. Authentic community involves sharing our true selves, mutual accountability in love, giving of our time and a disciplined effort and willingness to put others first. Faith thrives when shared with others and a vibrant community is a gift of God, made possible by God’s grace. The retreat offers time to explore unique benefits and subtle blocks in your particulate community. Discovering Community by Stephen Doughty and Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer are recommended resources.