The church planter’s wife flinched as my words left my mouth. All I said was, “These next few days our goal is to help you make new friends.” I did not observe her protest at the moment. I even thought I was mindful of every person’s needs when I added to the opening announcement, “I know retreats like this are made for extroverts; but, we want the introverts in the group to find other introverts and enjoy their small, corner conversations. Everyone needs friends.” Unknowingly, I had thrown a church planter’s wife into a conflict within minutes of the retreat’s beginnings without knowing my fault.
In that same room as the woman was recoiling in emotional pain and regretting the retreat, I spoke loudly over the clamor of two-dozen ministers’ children playing with toys and carrying on childlike conversations. “My name is Aiden what’s your name?” “This is my sister; she is seven years old. How old are you?” “I want to go swimming. Do you know how to swim?” There was no stopping the children from interacting with one another. They were making friends without any pushing or guiding.
During two consecutive years, I have arranged a summer retreat for church planters, bi-vocational pastors, their families and their teammates. It is difficult to find the correct recipe that will please everyone, all the time. There are too many factors to consider: introverts vs. extroverts, individual time vs. team building, married ministers vs. single ministers, inspirational speakers vs. practical break-out groups, athletes vs. gamers, and recreation vs. education. Some factors satisfy retreat-comers and other retreat-comers cringe at the same offerings. I concluded I can offer a buffet of experiences then let each person decide for themselves.
Our Bambi Lake Baptist Retreat and Conference Center in Roscommon, Michigan led by Mick Schatz offers plenty of choices to please every individual choice:
Canoeing, kayaking, boating or paddle boats
Fishing, swimming, or the waterslide
Beach volleyball, putt-putt golf or gaga ball
Hotel rooms, rustic sites or the newest cabins
Steak night: sirloin, ribeye, or one of each
Monastic solitude, team building, or inspirational worship
Throughout the three-day retreat, unaware of one person’s initial, stressful reaction to the retreat schedule, I made observations. A network of church planters from the westside of Michigan were having fun with one another and their children. They were building team. One wife and mother from Canada and another from the westside of Michigan became friends as they led the beach volleyball teams using their respective team training. I particularly loved the moment when one parent said, “I am thankful for how everyone is looking out for one another and helping them with the children. Thanks to all of you for helping my wife with our youngest when I am not around. You’re helping her to relax.”
Two inspirational speakers, the North America Mission Board’s (NAMB) John Mark Clifton and Ziglar Legacy Speaker Toni Cooper, challenged and inspired the adults during a couple hours of conversations. Their profound impact continues well after the retreat is over. People are encouraged. New goals are created, and action plans are set into motion. Disheartened individuals find bold, renewed faith. Ministries are led with hope and anticipation.
A particular, yet unproven problem was uncovered during this recent retreat. A pastor’s wife said to me, “Tony, did you know I checked with three wives, last week, to see if they were coming to the retreat and they said they didn’t know anything about it?” A light went on inside my head illuminating a prior suspicion. I replied to her, “I thought so! When I sent out promotions about the retreat to planters/pastors I wrote, “You know if your wife was receiving this letter that without question you would be attending the retreat. Wives/mothers know families need to get away and refresh themselves during the summer.” I was thrilled when my new informant said, “I can help you with that. I will gather the email addresses for the wives, and we can promote the 2020 retreat through the wives, too. That will definitely increase the benefit of the retreat for more people!”
I want to offer one final word before I finish this article and start planning for the 2020 Church Planter, Bi-Vocational Pastor, Family and Teammate Summer Retreat. On the closing day of the retreat, the wincing wife and mother who I mentioned at the beginning of the article confessed her initial, emotional reaction to me. She explained that upon her arrival to camp she was looking for isolated family time with her three children and husband; but to her delightful surprise she made new friends and she was grateful she opened herself up to new relationships. She left renewed and encouraged.
Would you like to attend the 2020 Church Planter, Bi-Vocational Pastor, Family and Teammate Summer Retreat? If so, send an email to Andrew@bscm.org asking to be placed on the promotional list. As I am writing, we are arranging specific dates with the Bambi Lake Retreat Team for the retreat. Some of this year’s participants, during 2020’s retreat, are going to come early or remain late and vacation with their new friends next year. Please, take part. We do this for you because we love you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tony Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.