Enrich Your Family Through Annual Retreats
Thanks to my wife’s inspiration (and some tips from our friends the Sauders), we have enjoyed “Evans Family Retreats” for the last six years. These annual three-day events have become a key cog in our family machine, allowing us to recalibrate, pray and plan together. If your family is seeking deeper connections or spiritual alignment, this type of event might be helpful.
I would like to share our approach to these events; but first, a caveat: We do not have a perfect family, and I am not suggesting your family should become just like ours. However, we find great value in our retreats, and I have not found much reference material on the subject. I hope this brief recap is helpful.
We conduct our retreats over a weekend in January. This is for several reasons. First, our family calendar tends to be relatively clear that time of year. Second, the timing allows us to glance back on one year and peer forward to the next. Third, what else can you do in the middle of winter with a houseful of cooped-up young boys?
My wife and I divide the labor. I am responsible for selecting a venue, establishing a theme and framing up age-appropriate assignments. She is responsible for meal planning/preparation, packing, ensuring our boys set aside sufficient preparation time and various other details.
I can normally find a cost-effective rental home/cabin within a two hour drive from our home (HomeAway rocks). We like to completely bed down for the weekend. Usually, once we pull our van into the driveway, it doesn’t move again until we head home (or make an emergency pharmacy run!).
We depart mid-afternoon on Friday and return by dinner on Sunday. This seems to fit with our school schedule, budget and attention spans.
A few weeks prior to the event, I create assignments for each member of our family. At this year’s retreat, our boys were ages 15, 12, 10 and 3. Our youngest, Timothy, received a free pass. I did not require him to prepare a devotional (yet!).
Even when our boys were younger (6, 8 & 10), they were able to prepare relevant content. It might have been a short devotional or retelling of their favorite Bible story. An 8-year-old can bring keen spiritual insights with just a little direction.
This year, with “faith” as the theme our oldest son, Alex, walked us through Romans; Jeremy and Jonathan each took one half of Hebrews 11; my wife, April, masterfully connected grace, faith and thankfulness; and I filled in with various faith lessons found in the New Testament.
A simplified view of our agenda:
* Friday: Drive time, dinner, review family mission statement, weekend intro/overview
* Saturday morning: 2 presentations, review prior year’s goals
* Saturday afternoon: 2 more presentations, outdoor fun (this year, we hiked nearby rock caves and scenic bluffs)
* Saturday evening: Inspirational movie night
* Sunday morning: Worship (iPod + bluetooth speaker = perfect setup), communion, one final presentation, prayer, set coming year’s goals
Our agenda is just an example. You may harvest pieces from it or come at this from a completely different angle. Generally, we want the following pieces in place:
1. Shared presenting: everyone has a turn up front, we bring a whiteboard
2. Focused prayer: we divvy up Christmas cards received and pray for each person/family
3. Fun time: we explore and play a board game or two (we avoid tech toys)
4. Intentional relaxing: movie time is enjoyable, yet meaningful
At six years in, the retreats are becoming increasingly meaningful. The year-over-year growth and change in our family is brought into sharp focus and we have some excellent memories of previous retreats. As our boys are maturing, their portions of the retreats are becoming richer and more personal.
Have you considered doing a retreat like this with your family? Do you think it can help as you pursue raising godly boys and girls? What keeps you from getting one on the calendar?