Life is busy. Few people would argue with me on that. Church life can also be incredibly busy. Between services and prayer meetings and toddler groups and social groups and food banks and hospitality and Bible study and home groups and everything else it is easy to find yourself burning out on church and feeling distant from God.
A friend of mine believes many of us run on Christian guilt which makes us unable to say no to anything. Help with holiday club? Sure. Run a prayer meeting? why not. Start a new home group? Love to. Saying no can leave you feeling very un-Christian. Believe me, I’ve been there. I know.
Sometimes though it is necessary to retreat to advance. You have to step back to be able to look at things clearly and decide your way forward because it’s near impossible to see your way forward in the middle of things.
We all have finite resources in terms of time and energy. There is a limit to what we can do and that may change according to changes in our health or simply slowing down because of age. It’s how we use those resources that is important.
By stepping back, by retreating we can take stock of our resources and our capabilities. Then we can decide how to advance.
How many of us do something because if we don’t, no one else will? And how many of us do that to our own detriment? And most importantly, do we do that thing because it is needed or because we’ve always done it?
When we step back, when we retreat, we can look properly at the season we are coming in to. We can see how the things we do work into our calling. If you are running a toddler group that gets three regular visitors is that the best place to be putting your resources? And if it is important to keep running it, could those three regulars become part of the team rather than just visitors. It’s the same with anything you do. Does it have value to your community and does it give you an opportunity to share your faith in some way? These are questions it is only possible to answer by stepping outside of things for a time.
Retreating also gives you a chance to look at your community. When you started out there may have been lots of young families. Those families may now be mainly school age, there may have been an influx of retirees, or people commuting to work. Communities are not static, they grow and change. Retreating gives you a chance to recognise those changes.
So step back
Look at what you do
Look at what your community needs
Then advance again when you’ve considered these things.