A true retreat is more than just time set aside; it’s a refuge in which you can be vulnerable in your spiritual practice, one that opens the door for reflection and awe. A place of sacred harmony, removed from life’s common distractions, revives your connection with your spirituality—not just during the time away, but even as you step back into your normal routines. Your choice of where to hold your church retreat is as important as what you plan to do there because every experience will be held by the space. As you find clarity around your ideal program, keep in mind the space and the practical details that will make it possible.
What Is the Intention of This Retreat?
For some people, this retreat may be their one opportunity out of the year to tune out every other claim on their energy and give it all to their divine Creator. Consider how your goals and intentions for this time will come together in a practical sense.
- Reflection on Your Personal Relationship with Your Spirituality. In order to really connect to this aspect of yourself, you’ll want to look for a retreat center removed from the Bay Area’s fast pace and noise. While there are plenty of options for reserving hotels and other centralized venues, chances are good you’ll experience the commotion of other events taking place at the venue. Look for a private venue that will guarantee exclusive use of the space. There are a number of quiet, spacious options in the Santa Cruz Mountains that offer sacred refuge surrounded by serene natural beauty.
- Respite and Self-Care. This retreat is an opportunity for your guests to set aside their burdens. Apart from the comforts of home, you want to make sure you provide peaceful, comfortable lodgings that are easy to sink into. You may even consider having a massage therapist or other spa practitioner come out—the Bay Area is full of them—so consider venues that have areas for separate activities. Think about hiring a coordinator as well, or, better yet, find a venue with a full-time coordinator included in the package, so that you and your guests don’t have to worry about planning and managing during the event. Consider venues that offer in-house catering as well, so you won’t be tied down to the additional headache of caterers coming and going.
- Fellowship. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” says Proverbs 27:17. In so many faith traditions, church is meant to be a fellowship of shared faith and love. Beyond weekly church services, a retreat can be the perfect time to initiate and strengthen bonds with one another. When you’re surrounded by others committing to their faith, your own commitment is illuminated. You’re probably going to spend a good deal of time indoors for worship, but keep an eye out for venues with outdoor space that could also be set up for worship—a really special way of connecting with the purity of natural creation. Gathering in our redwood amphitheater can be a transformative experience—there, voices raise in song and prayer without any walls to contain them.
Practical Considerations for Planning Your Retreat
The Bay Area offers so many relaxing event venues that you’re likely to find one right around the corner. But it’s worth considering that a true “retreat” takes you away from your everyday burdens. If the location is convenient enough for your guests to swing by home to check on the kids or the pets, it may prevent them from really immersing themselves in sacred reflection. Look for venues that are removed from life’s typical flow, setting up your guests with possibilities for meeting new people and parts of themselves. Give your guests the literal and figurative space to grow.
You’ll also want a space big enough for the whole group to come together—maybe even space for a worship band, as well. For the band or other activities, you may need the ability to amplify sound, to screen presentations or movies, and to rearrange furniture. As you’re reaching out to different retreat centers in the Bay Area, be sure to ask questions about the venues’ versatility as well as how much assistance you can expect from their staff on site. You will probably have more flexibility overall with venues that offer all-inclusive packages because they’ll have everything you need close at hand, and you’ll have access to their staff full-time.
Once you’ve considered your needs for a large worship space, as well as quiet places where guests can find individual refuge to deepen their prayer and personal growth, don’t forget about the need for fun. Getting people to laugh and smile, to trust themselves and one another, can soften a lot of the barriers to unconditional faith and love. You could plan guided hikes through some of the Bay Area’s most beautiful forests or plan themed games in the open air. You may even want to take the experience of faith and fellowship to another level with ropes course activities that challenge people to trust and work together.
Once you narrow down your list, plan some tours so that you can begin to imagine how different sites around the Bay Area will shape the experience. You’re pouring love and devotion into planning this retreat—it’s important to choose a location that understands its purpose.
The perfect refuge may be closer than you think. Kennolyn offers private access to the entire Stone Creek Village for retreat groups to stay and pray, inspired by the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. Get in touch with us to explore how we can shape the space and the experience to fit your group’s intentions.
Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Ben White