Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home

October 3, 2006 by
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

I’ve written previously about my journey back to the church.  One important part of that was the Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home retreat held at Camp Johnsonburg last January.  Today I’ll write about that retreat and ask your help.

The retreat ran Friday evening (about 8pm) until Sunday morning before lunch (about 11am).  The retreaters were housed at the camp’s lodges, which thankfully are heated in the winter (and fairly comfy).  Meals were held at the dining hall, though we had tons of munchies in the lodges.  Most of the retreat participants were couples, and the camp managed to provide each couple with a private room (2 people in a room that sleeps 3-4).

The retreat followed all of the Johnsonburg standard values – challenge by choice, no discounting others, be yourself.

The program elements were (in rough order, from my memory):

  1. Introduction Games
  2. Informal Chat and Food until bedtime Friday
  3. After breakfast, Tell Your Story (only if you want to)
  4. Presbyterian 101 (an hour explaining Presbyterian faith and the history of the church)
  5. Lunch
  6. Small Group Breakout and results – What You Want in a Church
  7. Suggestions for How to Find a Congregation
  8. Free Time (camp trails, etc. available)
  9. Dinner
  10. Candlelight Labyrinth in the gym
  11. Where Are We session (to talk about where we are, suggest where to go from here)
  12. Voluntary worship planning (by participants, with staff assistance if needed) and hangout until bedtime
  13. After breakfast, free time or outdoor labyrinth
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  15. Worship
  16. Closing, evaluations, and long goodbyes with lots of hugs

By far, the most emotional and valuable time was the Tell Your Story time.  Each person (including the staff and some staff spouses) spent some time telling their faith journey story – highs and lows.  Some stories were pretty straightforward – others were tear-filled stories of pain.  All showed unexpected depth in each person (including my wife – I learned things I hadn’t learned in the almost 20 years we’ve known each other).

Of the original group (and not counting the staff), only one person was attending church regularly before this retreat.  At this point 9 months later, about 40% of the group are attending church regularly (that I know of – it could be higher).  Others are seeking a different outlet for their spiritual lives; some are looking at home churches and others are exploring the breadth of spiritual expression beyond Christianity.

So why do I need your help?

This original group was selected from former camp summer staff.  This was both accidental and intentional – the original impetus for the group came from an online community of former camp summer staff, and the camp intentionally wanted to try the program out with people that they knew would be able to evaluate the program at the same time as attending it.  Those former camp summer staff were all formerly-churched people who were Presbyterian (surprise, it’s a Presbyterian camp!) who mostly brought along their spouses.  None of the spouses came from a Presbyterian background.

We are getting ready to plan for the next group to go through the program.  I’m on staff for this one, and it will be held in January 2007.  We are seriously considering having the original group come back for a followup retreat at the same time, and having a few activities be joint activities.  I believe that the plan for this one is to open it up beyond the former staff community to include anyone.  The target audience is any adult (though I don’t think we’d turn away an older high school student or college student) who may be considering joining a church, used to belong to a church, or has questions about whether Christianity or specifically the Presbyterian Church (USA) is right for them.  We encourage people to bring their spouses or significant others.

What you can help me with is this:  What do you think the unchurched or formerly churched are looking for from a program like this?  Are there topics that you don’t see covered in the list above?  Is there something in that list that you would eliminate?  How do we reach the unchurched or formerly churched – how do we find people who want to look at joining a church?

The first planning meeting will be this coming Saturday so any comments received by then would be helpful.  However, ideas are always welcome and can be incorporated all the way up to the day the retreat begins.

Please leave your comments or suggestions in Comments here, or send them via e-mail to me (see the link at left).  If for some reason comments aren’t working for you, please let me know that too – I’ve been having trouble.

Thank you.


One Comment on Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home

  1. Off for the Weekend : Mark Time on Mon, 26th Jan 2009 10:57 am
  2. […] Carolyn and I will be headed up to Camp Johnsonburg for the weekend for the 2nd Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home retreat (which I’ve written about here and here). […]

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