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When Men Retreat

Our small church has been in existence for a little over three years (officially), but we just held our fourth annual men’s retreat this weekend.  15 of us left school, work, family, lawn care, winterizing, and cell phone reception and hearded up north to a cabin in the woods near Cadillac, Michigan.  The group is always about 15 guys, but they are never the same 15.  I try to get 20 or so guys to sign up, and usually do…circumstances keep 25% from coming at the last minute, but that kind of thing is understandable.

The 15 who do show up have their reasons…even if they don’t know what they are.  We spend Friday night arriving and playing cards and unpacking sleeping bags.  There’s always 15 minutes where we each introduce ourselves and hear about the use of the cabin.  I always take that opportunity to accentuate the main reason we are here: to hear whatever it is God has to say to us.  I tell them I have my own hopes for the weekend, but I have no idea what God may have to say to the individual.  I say this so that, if they aren’t already, they will be intentional about listening.

Saturday there’s an eggbake thrown in the oven and the guys who got to sleep at midnight get the first crack at breakfast, while the guys who sat around the fire until 2:30am get to warm it up later.  Then the men go and do whatever they were hoping to do with their day: hunting, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, splitting wood, playing football…I read and try to have conversations with people. 

In the evening there is always a crew of sports fanatics who head to the only restaurant anywhere near for a chance to see the Tigers in the postseason or to watch their favorite college team play sportsball.  The rest play cards or sit around the fire.  Men being men without women is both smelly and refreshing from time to time.

Sunday morning brings my strategy into full steam: More breakfast then worship.  My plan all along has been to give men a chance to play together so that on Sunday morning they will be comfortable with each other enough to open up and be honest without the barriers.  We sing and then break into groups answering these two questions: What has God been up to in you recently? and, What stands out to you in this passage of scripture?  I give them Galatians 5 and 30 minutes.  Then, when they return, I preach a sermon that is a little more direct than I usually do.

Here’s the pay-off: At the end, where the response to word of God goes (this is where most churches put the offering), I put a piece of paper on the table next to me with a pen.  And I refer to the sermon about how we need one another…and I tell them that this is their opportunity to sign up for a men’s group: three guys who get together every week or two as works for them and do three things: talk about scripture, talk about what God is doing in their lives, and pray for each other.

And then…they all signed up.  Seems like less of a men’s retreat and more of a men’s advance.

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