Ideas for a Personal Spiritual Retreat and Soul Care Day
One of the things I love about serving at our church is that there is an intentional emphasis on soul care and the need for ministers (and all believers) to care for their souls. In fact, one of the gifts the church gives our ministers is a monthly spiritual retreat day for prayer, study, and spiritual refreshment. Our pastor often reminds us that ministry should be out of overflow, and if we have nothing to give, we are no good to our people. Ministry, no matter how you define it, is about giving your life away.
Do you have something to give? Consider the practice of a monthly spiritual retreat day (or quarterly if that’s more realistic) to care for your soul. Here are some suggestions.
Plan Your Day
Depending on your personality, you may be inclined to over plan or make no plans at all. I would encourage you to give some thought on how you will spend your day. Will it involve a walk or some type of physical activity? Will it include some form of study? If so, what resources would nourish your soul? Do you do better at a single location, or do you need to move to different places throughout the day? Do you wish to include a variety of elements and experiences? What are they?
Know Your Primary Spiritual Pathways
We experience God in different ways and some pathways are more helpful to us than others. Do you primarily experience God in relationships, through intellectual pursuits, in worship, engaging in activity, being contemplative, through service, or in creation? For example, my top three spiritual pathways are intellectual, contemplative, and creation/nature. So, my soul care often includes some Bible Study, commentaries, spiritual readings, prayer books, and daily devotionals to satisfy the intellectual pathway. I am contemplative in prayer, being quiet, and allowing my thoughts and readings to reflect on my inner world (contemplative pathway). I often go to a place like Radnor Lake or Smith Park to be in nature, walk the trails, and slowly allow my spirit to decompress and breathe in the fresh air, reminding me of God’s breath, His Spirit who indwells me (creation pathway). On a recent spiritual retreat, I supplemented these with a routine activity (staining my deck) in silence and solitude which put me in a place to focus on God (activity pathway). Also, whenever I was in the car, I put on some music that led me to best engage God in worship (worship pathway).
Consider a Variety of Spiritual Practices
This has some overlap with spiritual pathways, but the focus is on spiritual disciplines. You can practice a great variety of spiritual habits on a soul care day. The emphasis should be on what nourishes your spirit and allows you to connect with God more fully. For example, on a recent spiritual retreat I practiced Bible study, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, fasting, solitude and silence, personal worship, and rest (including a nap).
The Example of Jesus
In Mark 1:21-34, Jesus has an incredibly full day of ministry in Capernaum. His day begins with teaching in the synagogue, and then casting out demons and healing many different sick people—so many demands that “the whole city was gathered together at the door” (v.33). The next morning, Jesus goes off to a secluded place to be with the Father. The disciples don’t understand this since “everyone was looking” for Jesus. More lepers to be healed, more demons to be cast out. But away from the demands of ministry, Jesus hears the voice of the Father instructing him to move on to other villages because that was his purpose and mission. Ministry does not trump mission, or staying connected with God. We are finite creatures who depend on God for our sustenance and direction.
Let me ask. How is your soul? Is it weak and anemic, or are you giving and ministering out of fullness? What will you do to nourish your soul?