by Steve Cordle – guest blogging for Joel
Encounter Retreats have been used for years now in cell churches around the world. Our church just finished our 27th Encounter yesterday, and I am amazed that the power of that experience is still undiluted. It continues to provide a transformational experience of Jesus’ grace to all who attend.
The Encounter Retreat is a weekend (though we do it in 28 hours) designed to allow people to bring all of their past to the cross of Jesus and experience His freedom. Though each church seems to tailor their own, Encounter usually consists of a series of talks about the cross, discussion groups, worship and prayer for inner healing, deliverance, and filling of the Spirit.
It has such an impact at our church that when people return we like to say they have the “Encounter glow”. Here are a few of the keys we have found to making the Encounter effective on an on-going basis:
1. Bath it with prayer and fasting. Our team prays and fasts for each attender for weeks before the retreat.
2. Assign a staff person to over see and care for it.
3. Only group leaders serve as Table/discussion leaders – so they own and connect the church’s vision to that of the Encounter and follow-up is natural.
4. Make it experiential. Video, drama, music, creative elements supplement the talks.
5. Keep the weekend’s exact agenda a surprise.
6. Connect the Encounter to the Equipping Track. At the end of the weekend challenge participants to enroll in the next session of the Equipping Track. They work together: the Encounter provides the “Want to” and the Equipping Track provides the “How to” of group leadership development.
Joel has a book on the Encounter, as does Touch Publications. How have you done Encounter?