Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home retreat 2007 – How’d it go?

January 29, 2007 by
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

Reconnecting with Faith Retreat 2007 Group

The Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home retreat was a big success this past weekend at Camp Johnsonburg!

We had 10 paying participants, plus 4 staff (and a few other camp folks floating in and out during the weekend).  The participants were a very diverse group in several dimensions.  We had people from age 20-something to age “I don’t want to guess and be wrong”.  We had people in churches, people not in churches, and people looking at alternatives to Christianity.  We had some racial diversity.  We had theological diversity in that we had folks all along the spectrum from conservative to progressive.  Most of us came from a Presbyterian (PCUSA) background, and there were a few Catholics in the group.  We had 3 couples, a few singles, and a few married folks whose spouses didn’t attend.

The weather was a bit cold (particularly Friday, though it wasn’t the 4-degree F cold that the camp folks had to put up with before we arrived Friday morning).  There was just the right amount of snow on the ground; we got a little each night – just enough to cover the ground but not enough to slow us down.  The lake was frozen over except for an oval about 1/3 of the size of the lake.  The geese and swans were camped out on the frozen part.

We began the weekend by doing some get-to-know-you games Friday evening, followed by some fellowship and food time.  We also outlined the Johnsonburg standard core values of “No Discount” (of yourself or others), “Challenge by Choice” and Permission-Giving.  Because some of the participants knew each other outside of the retreat and the knowledge that someone might want to leave their church could be dangerous in the wrong hands, we added a new rule – “What happens at Johnsonburg stays at Johnsonburg”.

Saturday morning, we had a very emotional and uplifting session where each group member was able to tell the story of their faith journey.  These stories brought the group even closer together and allowed each to unburden themselves of the reasons that they might be looking to join a church or switch churches or leave the church.  A participant said it best:  “Mark and I can’t really do justice to the beauty of the stories that were told at the retreat this weekend.”

Saturday afternoon we did some brainstorming: what people wanted in a faith community, what people were looking to avoid in a faith community, and what stumbling blocks were keeping them from making progress in discerning whether or not to join a faith community and if so, which.  This session provided some good ideas for each person when they are considering a new faith community.

Saturday afternoon we had some free time.  Some of us took a 4-mile hike along the Yellow and Red Trails, while others connected with each other, relaxed, or even napped.  The camp canteen was open for a while so that folks could purchase a souvenir of their retreat experience.

Saturday evening, we completed the afternoon activity by brainstorming ideas on how to look for a new church.  Use of the Internet, friends, neighbors, coworkers, church visits, church staff and other resources were highlighted.  Those who had taken this route before were able to add their own experience to the bounty of ideas.

Reconnecting with Faith Spirituality 101

We then experienced a fascinating lecture – Spirituality 101.  In 90 minutes, our retreat’s minister leader went through the breadth of spiritual options in the world, along with the options within Christianity and the historical reasons for the number of denominations that we have.  It was amazing – I’ve had full semester religion classes that contained less information than this presentation.
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Reconnecting with Faith Fellowship

Later Saturday evening we had food and fellowship again, with S’mores and Banana Boats cooked on the fireplace in the dining hall.

Camp Johnsonburg labyrinth in winter

Sunday morning after breakfast (including a wonderful body prayer for grace) we began with Quiet Time.  A number of the group ventured out into the cold to walk the camp’s outdoor labyrinth in the quiet stillness of the sunny winter morning.

We followed that with a worship service planned by the retreat participants WITHOUT the aid of the religious professionals.  The service was very camp-like and yet still had all of the reverence of a church service.

After worship we concluded with evaluations, lunch, and an invitation to enjoy the camp facilities for the rest of the day.

For this retreat, the people ARE the program.  I’d like to thank the folks pictured above for their wonderful contributions.  I’d also like to thank all of them for the mutual respect that we all felt – in this era of Christians tearing each other apart we were able to assemble a group from all parts of the spectrum who worked together to help each other while respecting the conscience of each of us.

I’d also like to thank the Johnsonburg staff who helped plan/staff/support the retreat – including Lorelei, Kurt, Alicia, Harry, Josh, Shelly, and everybody else.  Additionally, I’d like to thank Dave Myers, who served as our minister-in-residence and all-around expert on things religious.

Based on feedback received, there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll try to do this retreat again.  Watch this space or the camp website sometime this fall for more information.  As I’ve stated before, any suggestions on how to advertise this retreat to the target audience (particularly those NOT in a church at the moment) would be appreciated.

If you have any questions about this retreat, please feel free to contact Lorelei at the camp or me.


8 Comments on Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home retreat 2007 – How’d it go?

  1. jim on Mon, 29th Jan 2007 10:34 pm
  2. Mark,

    This is such a great idea. I hope that this catches on in other presbyteries.


  3. Quotidian Grace on Tue, 30th Jan 2007 3:31 pm
  4. This is a really interesting retreat, Mark.

    What would you say is the split among the participants, ie. % of people not in churches, % of people considering changing churches and % of people considering other religions?

    I also wonder if you hear the same set of reasons people are dissatisfied with their church and looking for another one or if the reasons are as varied as the people.

  5. Mark on Tue, 30th Jan 2007 3:56 pm
  6. QG –

    Good questions.

    From this group, it was about 10% considering other religions and the rest split 50/50 between changing churches and unchurched. Last year the unchurched percentage was higher (among other things, it included me). Some of that has to do with the ways that we had available to advertise the retreat (mainly through churches, presbyteries and church-related websites).

    The reasons break down into one of a few groups:
    1. Moving/moved to a new location
    2. Drifted away after high school/college and never came back
    3. Something Bad Happened that turned them away from the church (I was in that group last year)

    The actual stories were as varied as the people. So varied that I can’t generalize any better than what I’ve written here. Due to confidentiality concerns, I won’t give any details.

    In my opinion, proper pastoral care of inactives would help prevent #2 and #3. Part of that would include redirecting people to another church (or a retreat like this one) rather than losing them completely, and I suspect that some churches would have a hard time taking that step.

    Our current denominational points of contention were mentioned as reasons that people were either not in church or looking to change. Not by many, but they were mentioned.

  7. Quotidian Grace on Tue, 30th Jan 2007 7:51 pm
  8. Thanks, Mark. This is an intriguing idea. I agree with you about redirecting people to another church where that is appropriate. I know an associate pastor at a Tall Steeple church in my area that does that and I think it shows good pastoral care.

  9. Anonymous on Fri, 16th Feb 2007 1:43 pm
  10. Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home – Retreat 2007

    A rundown of how the 2007 Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home retreat went. The retreat was held January 26-28, 2007 at Camp Johnsonburg, NJ.

    If you’re interested, there should be another one next year!

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