I talked with a pastor who was struggling with personal problems that were affecting his pastoral work. His huge outside difficulties were placing enormous strains on his daily ministry.God blessed the church’s cell ministry in spite of the problems, and it grew slowly and steadily. But I noticed that the underlying personal struggles were taking a toll on his minsitry. “I’d be willing to leave the pastorate, if it would help,” he told me. Yet, his board of elders and those closest to him encouraged him to stay on, because they knew the situation and believed in him. This is a good sign, I thought to myself. His elders know everything and yet want him to stay.
I didn’t talk with the pastor for awhile, and just recently spoke to him again. I noticed a complete change in his voice, a new vibrancy in his attitude, and new hope in ministry. His personal problems had not changed drastically, but he seemed like a different person. “I’ve been taking some personal retreat times,” he told me. “I realize that I need to be refreshed by God in order to make it in the long haul. I’ve committed myself to schedule more spiritual retreats in the next year. I believe this is the key to pick me up in spite of my personal difficulties,” he said. I rejoiced with him for this new discovery.
The bottom line is that long-term ministry requires periodic breaks. Yes, our daily devotional times give us continual strength, and I believe all God’s people need to take a 24-hour day off each week. Beyond those basic refreshment times, we need periodic spiritual retreats.
I just came off my own yearly personal retreat. I’ve been doing this each year for the last twenty-six years. My pattern is to fast and pray for 2.5 days, rent a hotel room for one-night, review my diaries from the past year, and then try to make sense of it all. I ask myself key questions:
- What are the patterns in the past year?
- What were the significant events?
- How did last year compare to the previous year?
And then I hone in on the vision God is giving me for the next year. In my case this involves: God, wife, family, personal vision, JCG, fund-raising, seminars, coaching, and Wellspring. I write down what God shows me, and it serves as a guide for the upcoming year. One of my goals for this next year (September 2009 to August 2010) is to have an additional, shorter personal retreat in February 2010, rather than waiting for one entire year. These retreat times provide refreshing, retooling, and fresh vision.
What about you? What has worked for you in the area of refreshment and retooling?