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Personal Christian Retreat: An Outline for Spiritual Renewal

personal Christian retreat

For years, I’ve taken a regular personal Christian retreat. The getaway is a staple for renewing my mind and heart. Taking this time out has become an essential ministry practice, and I recommend it to my students as well.

Here’s an updated format for taking a personal Christian retreat. This is a collection of a variety of resources. If you’re constantly talking about how busy or rushed you are, then you need to stop and spend a day alone with Jesus.

Why a Personal Christian Retreat?

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35

  • Charles Spurgeon: “Of course the preacher is above all distinguished as a man of prayer. He prays as an ordinary Christian, else he were a hypocrite. He prays more than ordinary Christians, else he were disqualified for the office he has undertaken.”

One discipline I challenge students to practice involves spending an extended time in prayer and spiritual focus. In other words, take a personal Christian retreat. In my personal life, I am returning to the practice of regular two to three hours of extended prayer and Bible study, and occasional, four- to eight-hour retreats. I do this not because I am strong spiritually. Rather, it’s because I know I’m weak and not yet as close to Christ as I desire.

If our Lord regularly set aside other things to spend time with His Father, how much more must I? So the following guide offers suggestions for spending three to eight hours with Jesus.

I highly recommend every believer do this periodically. A personal Christian retreat means just what it says: a personal, alone time to get away with your Creator, Redeemer and Lord. We live in a hectic world that sometimes makes us think being busy is a mark of being godly. But Jesus often went away to spend time alone (Mark 1:35). We too need times to get off the Ferris wheel of life and have a season with our Lord.

Think about where you like to go when you simply want to have a refreshing time with God. Most people envision mountains or the beach or some form of outdoor location, away from civilization. Sometimes we just need to get away.

In fact, I once had a class of church planters take a personal Christian retreat. One person wrote later to tell me that day saved his ministry. Why? He had become so discouraged he wanted to walk away.

I require a doctoral seminar on spiritual formation to take a personal Christian retreat day before the seminar. Almost all the participants committed to doing this once a quarter or so after the seminar. Regardless of your ministry role, we all need time to get away.

Before You Head Out

Read the following before you go on a personal Christian retreat. You may want to use all this material or none of it. It’s your time with God. But I’ve learned that many people need some sort of guideline. The following is an attempt to help you take a personal Christian retreat. But it’s not a formula to follow slavishly.

If you’ve never done this, I’d start with no agenda other than to grow in your knowledge, love and affection for Jesus. Other times, you may do a study retreat to prepare upcoming sermons, or to pray for a specific issue. But I’m talking about a personal Christian retreat with unfettered focus on God himself.

Before you embark, establish the time and place. Make sure it’s a secure place but also a place where you can have solitude. Numerous retreat centers will, for a nominal fee, allow you to use their grounds. Or go to a park, or wherever you can have uninterrupted time with God.

Cut off your cell phone. No social media. No email! If you want to be accessible to your family, keep it on airplane mode. Turn it on once an hour for a quick family check. Nothing else. Man does not live by cell phones alone!

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Alvin L. Reid (born 1959) serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two children: Joshua, a senior at The College at Southeastern, and Hannah, a senior at Wake Forest Rolesville High School. Recently he became more focused at ministry in his local church by being named Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin holds the M.Div and the Ph.D with a major in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary, and the B.A. from Samford University. He has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and continent, and in over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States.