Recipe for a Successful Retreat

Commission Church recently had its first ever retreat. It was a small and intimate group, perhaps befitting the church’s current growth stage. But even though there were only seven of us, we didn’t skimp on any of the ingredients of a great retreat.

The boldness and humility to ask

The most important task was obviously finding a place to stay. After considering different locales such as San Diego and even Palm Springs, Pastor Dave’s friends unexpectedly let us use their private vacation home in Lake Arrowhead free of charge. That was an amazing blessing. Being in the mountains led to us experiencing a fierce snowstorm together on the first day (scary yet beautiful). We also asked to borrow a portable WiFi hot spot from a member of our sending church, Cornerstone Bible Community Church, and she graciously agreed. The WiFi access allowed us to have a productive planning meeting and stay connected with the outside world.

A good balance between work and play

Since we were such a small group, there was no need for printed schedules or formal welcomes. We knew we were there to further our two core team values: (1) to grow together as a team, and (2) to plan/execute the vision. We had a marathon planning session complete with giant post-its stuck to the wall, brightly-colored markers, and laptops/iPads/iPhones everywhere. During free time, we played hide-and-seek, danced to the Kinect, built a snowman, and watched cute DVDs like Studio Ghibli’s The Cat Returns and old episodes of Punky Brewster. It was the right mix between intensive teamwork and a restful refuge from our normally busy lives.

Food, glorious food

So basic, yet so great at bringing people together. The house was so big that it was easy to pass a couple hours without interacting with each other. But Dave and Joanne Jung, drawing upon their vast experience in feeding crowds of college students, had prepared an awesome menu. Korean rice cake soup, chicken curry and rice, chicken wings with celery/carrot sticks, lettuce-wrapped BBQ kalbi (marinated beef short ribs), not to mention hot breakfasts of sausage, bacon, eggs, and Belgian waffles. Food gathered us together for memorable conversations and helped us to learn new things about one another.

Keeping the main thing the main thing

Saturday night, my husband and I noticed that the hallway light was on well after midnight. He got up to check, and saw Pastor Dave on the floor with papers spread all around him. (A tripped electrical circuit the first night resulted in no lights in a couple of the upstairs rooms, including the Jungs’.) Our pastor was putting the finishing touches on his sermon that he would deliver to his audience of 6 the next morning. Now, that’s dedication. Sunday morning at around 10:30am, we had a complete service with praise led by Joe Reno and his guitar, a full-bodied 40-minute sermon by Pastor Dave, and group prayer. This truly fed our spirits.


We did a couple “prayer wheels,” which is when we go around in a circle praying for various requests until everyone is done and says “pass.” My heart was unsettled with a lot of things (worries, etc.) prior to retreat, but the extended times of prayer we had as a group helped me to focus on what was really important. God brought a few people to my mind who I normally don’t pray for. As we prayed, I found myself thinking, why don’t I do this more often, on my own? My priorities leave much to be desired. We all prayed that prayer would be our priority leaving the retreat. It’s comforting that we can practice that spiritual discipline together at anytime.

In Conclusion

None of us are what you would call “church planting experts.” None of us has ever planted a church before. We didn’t do too much in the way of planning for this retreat. There aren’t enough of us for multiple committees to tackle complex tasks such as programming or housing arrangements. We simply worked with what we had, the foundation of which was an undoubtable sense of God’s blessing and direction.


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