I hate retreats. I do. I have just never been a big fan of retreats, conferences, camps, etc. I think I’m in the minority here; I have tons of friends who just love attending Passion, Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Walk to Emmaus, or their campus ministry’s annual Retreat. Maybe it’s my introverted side, or maybe I’m just a little lazy and don’t like giving up my weekend routine, but I usually approach these type of events thinking: “Couldn’t I just read the book, and listen to some Crowder on iTunes?”
Okay, so I’m an event curmudgeon. But in my ministry role, I find myself attending events like this on a pretty regular basis. So I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned about how even an “event curmudgeon” can get something out of attending an event like Reclaim. If you’re an event-lover, I’m guessing you’re already registered for Reclaim. If you’re like me, and were thinking of NOT coming, I hope you’ll plan to join us, and give these tips a try.
1) Come with a focused goal. Most of us young adults are faced with frequent change and decisions, right? What to do after graduation? What’s my next career move? To end a relationship, or to start a new one? Whether to move to a new city? Whether to get engaged, when to start a family, the questions go on and on. I find that if I don’t take intentional time for discernment, I just end up taking the path that seems easiest or best to me at the time, rather than gaining a clear sense of what God wants me to do. Attending an event like Reclaim can be an intentional time for you to pray about what’s next in your life. You’ll step out of your everyday routine, spend time in worship and prayer, dialogue with other young adults, and listen to some amazing speakers whom God might use to speak a word of guidance to YOU.
2) Build one relationship. Young adults who are passionate about faith as Christians, and as United Methodists, are relatively few and far between. Your co-workers, classmates, friends, family, or even fellow church members may not totally “get” it. But Reclaim will bring together people from all over Florida who do. Our faith is a communal one; God uses our relationships to help us grow. God might use one new friendship, contact, or conversation to do something new and exciting in your life.
3) Have one experience of God. I am not a person who very regularly and frequently has “mountaintop” experiences of God. Sometimes I do. But often, my faith is a day-to-day process of trusting that God is present even when I don’t necessarily feel it. And so in times of uncertainty, it can be helpful to remember the marking-points in our lives when we know that we experienced God. The hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” uses the Old Testament word “Ebenezer” (which means “stone of help”); God’s people erected these marking stones as monuments to God’s faithfulness, so that in times of uncertainty, they could have a visual reminder that God had helped them in the past, and would help them again. Attending an event like Reclaim, setting aside a weekend of your life to connect with God, can become an Ebenezer for you. I’m not promising you’ll have a mountaintop experience of emotion, but I believe that God has promised to be present when we gather together for worship, prayer, and Sacrament, and I trust that you’ll experience that in SOME way at Reclaim. And once you do, you will have that experience to sustain you on the next phase of your journey.
Hate events? Me too. You’ll find me in the back row, probably not clapping along to the music, but looking for God’s guidance, God’s community, God’s presence in Reclaim. Come join me.