Posts Tagged BSL Women’s Retreat

Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard

Work Hard Play Hard Pray Hard

This past weekend, I experienced a rather fascinating, mostly-unplanned intersection of ministry life.  Those of us who lead know well that experts tell us we need to take a rest from our ministry work, filling our own bucket from time to time.  We also know that leadership experts extol the value of developing extracurricular bonds with our team members outside of our work.  Additionally, we all want to add value to those we serve.  My 4-day-weekend  was an intersection of all of these things.

I have written before about my annual BSL Women’s Retreat that I cherish each Autumn.  Deep, spiritual work is done while I enjoy time in far Northern Wisconsin, hours away from home.  I attended the first year with a personal friend.  Subsequent to that, I have told others about this phenomenal getaway.  As a result, some mothers and volunteers with whom I work have begun attending.

It took my breath away this year to see what God had orchestrated.  I try to respect people with the confidentiality they deserve, so not all of these attendees were aware of their connection to our ministry.  Not including myself, 14% of those in attendance at this year’s retreat were either parents of children with special needs, benefactors, or volunteers involved with our organization.  To have that common thread running through the heart of these women, growing together, both those who are typically served alongside those who typically serve, gave an incredibly beautiful picture of the Body of Christ.

The triple bond that developed began in the usual way.  We worked hard together.  Whether it was co-laboring as parents or building our ministry through service, we grew in our relationship with one another as we worked hard.  At retreat, we got extra opportunities to play hard together.  Boating, horseback riding, hiking, skeet shooting, and crafting offered the type of bonding that makes memories.  New friendships developed and grew.  But the game-changer with a retreat like this was the opportunity to pray together, again and again.  Even in the car, some of us had occasion to pray together.  Coming together to speak to our Mighty Father, sharing concerns, and an earnest desire to grow in our walk enriched our prayer life.

An experience of this type, apart from our usual special needs ministry work, humanizes each of us.  Leaders, participants and volunteers become fellow sojourners and friends.  Rather than seeing people as an event or means to get much-needed help, we are able to come together as family members in Christ.  This only enriches and deepens the commitment involved with our ministry work.

I pray that each of you get the opportunity to attend such an extracurricular event with your adherents, volunteers and benefactors.

QUESTION:  What sorts of ways do you connect with your team members, participants and donors outside of your typical ministry work?

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Come Apart Before You Come Apart

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” ~ Mark 6:31, NIV

The photo accompanying this post is not from some dreamy Northwoods beer commercial.  It is, in fact, a real place.  I took this photo a couple of years ago on the pristine shoreline at Fort Wilderness in McNaughton, Wisconsin.  In recent years, I make a 4 day retreat there each October with my BSL (Bible Study Ladies) group.  It is something I look forward to every fall, coming apart from my ordinary life in the beauty of God’s breathtaking creation, stretching myself personally, and quieting myself to allow Him to speak to my soul.  Aside from digging in deep to God’s word, trekking quietly along a prayer path, and worshiping with other dear women, I also get to move out of my comfort zone with crafts, horse back riding and rifle shooting.  (Those who know me ought to be scared to imagine me in that last activity!)  This time deeply fills the core of my being, preparing me to go forth and live fully the life God calls me to the rest of the year.

My question for those of you traveling a similar path to me is, What are you doing to “Come apart before you come apart”?  Do you make regular time each day to spend in quiet time where God can speak to your soul?  Do you make time each year to refill your spiritual tank in some deliberate way?  How are you growing yourself spiritually as you pour yourself out for others?

At the advice of one of my pastors, I have begun digging into the terrific read STRENGTHENING THE SOUL OF YOUR LEADERSHIP:  Seeking God In the Crucible of Ministry by Ruth Haley Barton.  The author makes some convicting points relevant to this notion of pulling away to plug in to God, “One of the reasons solitude is so challenging for leaders is that the activities and experiences associated with leadership can be very addicting…  Leadership roles, by their very nature give a lot of fodder to the ego.  To remove ourselves, even for a time, from the very arena where we are receiving so much of our identity can be difficult if not impossible for leaders, not matter how much mental assent we give to the idea.”*  Haley Barton emphasizes, “But one of the things I know for sure is that those who are looking to us for spiritual sustenance need us first and foremost to be spiritual seekers ourselves.”*

We can never be reminded enough that we must be intentional about spiritual self-care or we become a dull tool in God’s hand.  We also set ourselves up for major burnout if we don’t pull away at times.  While God calls us to serve, He also calls us to be filled.  We are merely a vessel, and if we don’t allow God to pour into us, we become empty with nothing to offer others, including having intrinsic purpose in ourselves.  I pray that you have or will make time to schedule sacred time like this for the benefit of yourself and everyone around you.

*Excerpts from Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership:  Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry copyright (C)2008 Ruth Haley Barton, InterVarsity Press

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In my busy schedule, there are a few times during my year that I purposely pull away to refill myself as a leader.  In Spring, it’s traveling east to the McLean Bible Church Accessibility Summit.  In Fall, it’s heading far north to the BSL Women’s Retreat.  And in August, I never want to miss Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit!

A number of years ago, one of my Board members made me aware of the Summit.  He and a few of his friends attend it each year.  I first joined him 3 years ago, and instantly became a fan.  I found it to be a worthwhile pursuit that also had a busy leader like myself in mind.  Because the Summit is simulcast at over 300 locations worldwide, a leader can find a local host to attend the conference without incurring large travel expenses or extra travel time away from home.  A wide variety of resources are offered for purchase at discounted prices on site, which makes it easy to put into practice or further develop a ideas you discovered during the event.

The schedule for the Summit is always a blessing too.  It opens with a time of worship, which dedicates the time to the Lord, and gets us outside of ourselves from the start.  You find yourself experiencing everything from laughter to great curiosity as you listen to the presentations during the two day event.  A wide variety of leaders speak as part of the annual faculty.  This includes individuals from the Christian community, from the political world, and from the social justice world.  Attendees are challenged to set aside their political views and keenly tune in to what can be learned from the skills of each leader.  Ample breaks are given for refreshment, for lunch and for examining resources.  Time to chat with fellow local attendees is also available.  While I doubt that every speaker will appeal in equal measure to every attendee, I never leave the Summit without some exciting nugget to make me a better leader.

I encourage you to invest in your leadership skills by attending this years 2012 Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, either in person or by simulcast!  Best rates are available if you register before May 22nd!  Some of the speakers I am most eager to hear this year include John Ortberg, Condoleezaa Rice, Jim Collins, and Craig Groeschel.  Can’t find a location convenient to you or get away at that particular time?  Then be sure to do yourself the great favor of checking out the wonderful resources Willow Creek Association puts together for you to study on your own.  It is a true gift that Bill Hybels and his team give the rest of us, making it far easier to grow ourselves as Christian leaders!

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