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NOMADs and Iowa Mission Team Renovate the Pavilion

Posted by Tom Banks

Feb 27, 2017 11:02:00 AM

We are excited to celebrate another great improvement at the Life Enrichment Center. For many years, the Ivan Marx Pavilion has served as an open-air gathering space in our campground. Over the last several years, we have seen a steady decline in use; although the building and surrounding area were as beautiful as ever, it just didn’t meet the changing needs of our guest groups.

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After careful consideration, we decided the time had come to invest in the pavilion as a more usable space. Thanks to some generous donations and dedicated effort, the space has seen quite the upgrade.

The first stage in the project was handled by a group of NOMADS between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In a few weeks, they framed out exterior walls, installed siding, erected stabilizing walls to protect the building against Florida storm winds, hung drywall throughout nearly the whole space, and replaced rickety screen doors with new sets of French doors.

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They even repaired the sidewalk in front of the pavilion that had been unsettled over the years by growing tree roots. A tireless paint crew dealt with the exterior of the pavilion and the adjacent bathhouse, and even made time to recoat the walls of the Scott Auditorium and provide some much-needed care to the lakeside Prayer Chapel. The NOMADS got us off to a great start, and we can’t thank them enough.

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Still, there was much work to do on the project after the NOMADS had gone. Thankfully, a group from First United Methodist in Fort Dodge, Iowa made the long trip to Florida to lend a helping hand. This church is home to the Wilsons, one of our Work Camping couples, and we have been privileged to host volunteer groups from the church as volunteers for four years running. They’ve been instrumental in helping with our room remodels, the Annie Mae upgrade, and the new ceiling in the Dining Hall; naturally they were a great fit to tackle the pavilion as well. In just a week, they completed an impressive bit of work:

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they finished hanging the drywall in the areas the NOMADS hadn’t reached, Capture 3.jpgsprayed texture onto the newly hung drywall, installed all of the windows in the space, painted most of the interior walls and all of the trim, replaced rusted and worn lighting fixtures with brand new LED fixtures, built a brand new interior wall, hung a rail of spot lights to warm the front of the room, and made some modifications to the kitchen area to make it a more usable space.

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In addition to their travel expenses and tireless work, they also gave a generous $1,000 donation toward the purchasing of supplies to complete this phase of construction. Our hearts are full of gratitude for all of their generosity, and we are so proud to be worthy of their partnership.

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Over the ensuing weeks since the Iowans’ departure, some members of our Work Camping community have been at work putting the finishing touches on the space. They’ve installed baseboards and window trim, hung curtains, built and painted new bookshelves, rearranged furniture, made some electrical repairs, and given the place a deep cleaning that was much needed after all the construction.

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Looking around the pavilion today, it is hard to believe that just a few months ago it was a dusty, screened-in building. We look forward to living into this new welcoming space in the years to come.

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Campground Construction

Posted by Will Cooper

Nov 17, 2016 10:43:13 AM

 Those of you who have been to the Life Enrichment Center over the past few months may have noticed the caution tape and large trenches on your left as you drove in and wondered “What is going on?”

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Don’t worry, it wasn’t a major accident or small scale disaster. Those giant holes were a part of our continued effort to make improvements around the site.

Back when the campground was installed at the Life Enrichment Center, most RVs and trailers were smaller then they are today. As rigs got bigger,_MG_9459.jpeg 
so did their power needs and our 1970s campground was no longer able to provide many our guests and Workampers with the full amount of power their RVs needed. So, two years ago, with the help of donations from many of our Workampers, we began the process of upgrading some of our pull-through sites from 30 amp to 50 amp. And now, this year, we have continued that effort. Once the city signs off on all the work that has been done, we will have an entire row of sties that can provide 50 amp power to our guests.

           IMG_2201.jpg                  One of the new 50 amp pedestals 

 

In addition to upgrading the power in parts of the campground, work was also done to make some of our more secluded sites useable to more guests. IMG_2196.jpgOur staff spent many days clearing out these campsites behind the pavilion. At the same time, they ran sewer lines to some of those sites and upgraded the eletric to 50 amp so that trailers and smaller RVs, in addition to tent campers, can now enjoy these sites that are a little more out of the way and off the main road of the LEC.


And in the last big bit of news of Life Enrichment Center Campground upgrades, work will start shortly to begin the process of enclosing the Ivan Marx Pavilion in the campground. We received a sizeable donation from the LEC Workampers that will allow us to begin work on the pavilion at the end of this month!

IMG_2171.jpgIvan Marx Pavilion

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As the years have passed and the needs of our guests have changed, we have realized that our screened pavilion, just like our lower amperage sites, no longer serves our guests in all the ways we’d like for it to. The pavilion serves many functions throughout the year: In IMG_2174.jpgsummer and fall months, it is used by our guests and campers as a meeting space, a dining area and more. In the winter months, it serves as a central hub for our Workampers, who use the space for morning devotions, social gatherings, movie nights, pot lucks, the occasional pickleball game and as a general daily hangout space. And in the spring time, the Florida Conference Women’s Retreats even use it as a workout space. It is our hope that this upgrade will allow us to serve all of these groups better and potentially find some new ways to meet our guest’s needs too.

The plan for enclosure is to begin by replacing the old screened windows with real windows and building in the walls to provide better insulation. This will let us to then condition the space, allowing for a more comfortable gathering place in both the summer and winter months.

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Throughout all of these upgrades, it is our hope that we will be able to preserve the rich character and history that exists within the Ivan Marx Pavilion. The plan is for the beautiful wooden beams and ceiling to stay, giving the space both a slight rustic feel and a glimpse into its past. We want to honor what the space was, while still being able to modern parts of it so as to better serve our guests today.

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If you are interested in being apart of our efforts to upgrade our spaces so that we can continue to enrich lives in this natural setting, you can donate by clicking here.

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Topics: retreat in Florida, workamping, upgrades

Continued Improvements at the Life Enrichment Center

Posted by Will Cooper

Oct 21, 2016 3:30:54 PM

The Life Enrichment Center is getting better all the time!
In a constant effort to better serve our guests, we have made some major strides in the last few months. 
 
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Thanks to a generous donation from Asbury UMC in Maitland, FL, we have undergone renovation of the Gold Room Kitchen. A favorite space for many groups throughout the year, the kitchen has long been in need of some care and attention.
 
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The Gold Room Kitchen before the renovation began
 
We are ecstatic about the improvements. Along with a fresh coat of paint, it now has a brand new floor, LED lighting, and some updated appliances.
 
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A look at some of the new updates in the Gold Room Kitchen
 
By the end of this year, the kitchen will improve even further with brand new counter tops and resurfaced cabinets. 

We are thankful for donors who so generously contribute to help grow this sacred space, and we are also glad to report that as the LEC grows ever healthier as an organization, we are able to tackle projects and make improvements out of our own budget.
 
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LEC Staff members, Glenn and Tom, hard at work on the new floors
 
Earlier this year we were able to replace the ceiling in the Dining Hall as well as the Green and Blue rooms, and over the summer both the Green and Blue rooms saw their old, worn carpeting removed and replaced with brand new carpet tiles.
What a difference! 
 
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LEC staff member, Tom, putting the finishing touches on the new carpet in the Blue Room
 
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The Green Room, with updated ceiling and floor, ready for a group
 
Great things continue to happen here at the LEC, and we hope you will take a look around on your next visit to see these improvements.
Thank you for your continued support of this sacred space. 
 
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Iowa UMC Folks Make a Difference at LEC

Posted by Phyllis and Jan Wilson

Jan 25, 2016 11:36:55 AM

Another very busy week at the Florida LEC! The Mission work team from Fort Dodge, IA United Methodist Church, consisting of Roland and Juanita Johnson, Pat Bennett, Dave Newman, and Jan and Phyllis Wilson, joined with LEC volunteers David Lytle from Lafayette, IN and Ambrose Phillips from Milford Center, OH to replace the 6000 sq. ft. ceiling of the dining room at the Florida Life Enrichment Center.

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   Jan, Pat, Dave and Roland installs last 2'X2' on first 1/2..

Our goal was to remove the old, sagging 2’ x 4’tiles and replace them with 2’ x 2’tiles.  Making the project more difficult was the brittleness of the old tiles and insulation, both producing considerable amount of dust.  Another issue was to figure out how to make the 2015 support bars to mesh into the older suspension, to support the 2’ x 2’ tiles.  Fortunately we had an “Ace” on our team Roland Johnson who figured a way to trim both ends of the new 2’ support, to fit securely in the older suspension.  Even Ambrose, a retired construction contractor was pleased how well Roland’s method worked. 

 

It was essential we finish the project in a timely manner as guests were scheduled to be fed each day.  The dining room had a mid room divider, so this was closed before we began on the other side from the food serving lines.  The first half took 2 1/2 days to complete (Friday, 1/2 Sat. and Monday)

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Capt. Tom explain the history of the river.                                    

Tuesday morning, after the guests finished their breakfast, we removed all the tables and chairs from the other half of the dining room.  We also covered the serving lines and the doorways into the kitchen.  Once these were completed – things began to happen!  In approximately 1 ½ hours all the old tile had been removed.  At lunch, the guests were served with catering equipment in the dining room portion we completed on Monday.  By 4:00 pm on Tuesday, over a 1/3 of the ceiling was completed and at 3:00 pm on Wednesday the final tile was installed!  Most of the cleanup of this area was completed by 4:00.  WHAT AN AMAZING TEAM!

During our cleanup time, Phyllis commented to Chef Albert, “You are probably glad to say good-bye to this Iowa team!”  He said, “Absolutely not!  I have never seen a volunteer group show so much cooperation.”  I think they represent what it will b e like when Jesus returns.  You will help me build my house and I will help you build yours.  We will all work together.”  Then he started to sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”  It was an amazing touching moment.

 

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Pat and Juanita having fun trimming (hair?)                                    The amazing FUMC volunteers, ready for the flight home.

 

2016-01-15_09.28.13.jpg The Finished Product

In addition to the ceiling, several of the Iowa Team did trimming, weeding, and planting.  Almost every night we enjoyed playing games, favorite being Sequence!  Who won?  These same volunteers were here last year and are already planning to return next year.  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!

Jan n Phyllis

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Topics: retreat, volunteer, workamping

Why Plan a Retreat for your Church or Group......

Posted by Jess Schload

Jun 14, 2015 9:17:36 AM

Planning a retreat is a tough job. You need to decide to do it, choose a leader, plan marketing to get folks hope_and_rogerto come, set a budget, and price for the retreat, pick a site, take registrations, plan a schedule and more. As one who works at a retreat center, I am always amazed at the folks who take this task on, usually with no training, and pull it off very well.

But, why? Why do you want to even go through all this work? Most retreat leaders I talk to plan retreats for two basic reasons.

  1. They had wonderful experiences at a retreat and want to share that with others.
  2. They want to make a difference in people’s lives. They want to help their church grow in faith.

It is a lot of work to plan a retreat, but it is worth the effort. Think of a time when you saw a change in a person’s life at a camp or retreat. Or a time when you sat in a worship service with a group of folks you just spent a wonderful couple of days with, and knew you were a stronger person, that you would be different when you went home. Remember that time when someone told you how tired they were, burned out on life, work, or God, and a time away in a beautiful space turned them around.

Retreats are what the word implies. They are a time to get away. To remove yourself from the everyday toClick this box to  begin planning your  next retreat or conference be with a group of other like minded people and center on a special topic or theme. To think of nothing but your life with God, or your spouse, or the group you are with. Retreats have many purposes, from training, to spiritual growth, to rest and renewal. However, no matter the purpose, the time apart is valuable and needed by many. In today’s “connected” world, we all need to disconnect once and a while if we are going to be whole.

Why plan a retreat? Because you can make a difference in your and other people’s lives. You can help people grow. You can help your organization or church be stronger. You can have fun with the group who attends. When a military leader yells “retreat!”, the troops leave the heat of the battle for safety. When you offer a retreat, you offer a time to get away from the heat of life. That is why planning a retreat is time well spent. Let us at LEC know if we can help. Check other blogs in this series for ideas. Look for books and websites on retreat planning. Begin today to make a difference. You will not regret it.

Rev. Jess Schload, Director, jess@lecretreats.org

Check out our website at www.lecretreats.org

Get fore information at http://www.lecretreats.org/request-a-quote

 

 

 

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Topics: Spiritual Growth, Retreat and Conference Planning, retreat in Florida, retreat, retreat alone, planning women's retreat

To Volunteer at the Life Enrichment Retreat Center

Posted by Jess Schload

May 22, 2015 12:46:00 PM

There are many ways to give your time to a vital ministry that helps change people's lives. We are happy to work in any of the following ways with you (or your group). Want to give some time? Consider:

1. If you are here with a group retreat and would like to offer your help during some free time, just check at the front desk. Or better yet, let us know before you arrive. We always have small projects on the grounds, in the office, or many other possibilities. Just ask!

2.Come for a day: We need folks willing to give a day, or a day a month, week, etc. Call or email (352-787-0313 or info@lecretreats.org) to see how you can be a part of helping this ministry grow.

3. Bring a group from a church. We recently had a great group of folks from North Carolina. Another group2015-04-15_16.08.31 has come twice from Iowa. Sometimes a local church gets a group together to come for a day, or to help do a project. Think about a group coming from your chruch.

4. Drop in: Do you have an RV and like to serve. Consider dropping in to give a few days to several weeks of service. We are happy to provide a full hook-up site for your time. Just give us a call or write, and we will set it up (352-787-0313 or info@lecretreats.org)

5. Workamper: We have a wonderful group of folks who come for a winter season (3 months or more) to serve in our ministry. We ask 24 hours of service a week for a full hook-up site in our RV campground. Sorry, we do not have any other housing options. Interested in this opportunity. Let us know and we will get you an application. 

Our volunteers help with programs, dining, maintenance, grounds, hospitality and more. 

We recently talked with Jan and Phyllis Wilson, who have been workamping here for several years. Read on to learn about their experience.

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Jan and Phyllis Wilson have volunteering in their hearts. Since retirement they have served at no less than 6 volunteer positions including Habitat for Humanity, Heifer International and local opportunities (Ft. Dodge, IA). A few years back, they discovered the Life Enrichment Center online (praise God for Google) and decided to check with us about volunteer options. Since coming to LEC it is clear this has been a wonderful match for LEC and for the Wilsons. They are quick to tell others that “LEC is an awesome place to have an opportunity to serve. It is a wonderful Christian atmosphere, where each day starts with devotions. The other volunteers are very special people and we are privileged to have them as friends”.

Picture1Jan points out that the location is a special place. “I sometimes go out with my camera on a Sunday and that helps me be more observant”. He sees God in a hawk or a wonderful tree that fell years ago, but still survived. Phyllis adds that the blessing of volunteering here goes two ways. They are a blessing to LEC, and the place and people are a blessing to them. Jan and Phyllis have been responsible for much of the improvements to the grounds, including the  front entrance, flowers by the front office, and cleaning up of the labyrinth. All of us at LEC are so grateful for Phyllis and Jan and all our workampers.

 

 

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Topics: Retreat and Conference Planning, retreat in Florida, United Methodist Church, volunteer, work Camping, workamping, volunteer retreat center, RV volunteer programs

I Am Planning A Retreat - How Much Will It Cost?

Posted by Jess Schload

Aug 22, 2014 6:00:00 AM

One of the first questions people ask when checking with us (or any site) about doing a retreat is “what will it cost?” I have noticed in recent years, with the downturn in the economy we experienced, people not only ask that question, but often ask about any way to reduce the fees. I fully understand this concern.

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People today are concerned more than ever where their hard earned income goes. If someone is going to spend what it cost to attend an event or conference, they want to make sure it will be money well spent. The old question “what is in it for me?” is many people’s guide to saying yes or no.

When deciding the fee you will charge for a retreat, you need to take a number of things into account.

  1. Cost of food and lodging at the site.
  2. Other site costs
  3. Costs for a leader(s) to guide the time.
  4. Cost for materials needed for the event.
  5. Transportation costs (if you are providing a bus or other means of transportation).
  6. Marketing costs.
  7. Miscellaneous costs (always build a bit of this in for all the things you can not anticipate early in the process).

Both the site used and you need to work together to make sure the event is worth the hard earned money the attendees will spend to attend. The site will provide the services and space. As a site, our mission is to make this place ideal for people to come and grow in faith or other ways depending on your goals. We seek to have beautiful and peaceful grounds, activities for free time, outstanding meals, and comfortable lodging. We seek to match your event to the best meeting space possible to meet your needs. All we want you to be concerned with is the program. We will have your back on all the other services.

So, how much does it cost? Every site is different. There are very low cost options, and those that will be higher. You could choose a summer camp as your site, but be ready for bunk beds (up to 8 in a room), the need to bring your own bedding, and the use of a public bathroom (plus they may have a more kid friendly menu for their food service). For many groups, this is no problem.

Other sites offer private and semi private rooms, each with a bathroom and linens provided. This will, of course, cost a bit more. Many adults insist on these comforts. When getting a price from a center, make sure you know what it includes (or does not include). Most centers will price per person. Find out the following for starters.

  1. Is this a price for the entire event or the daily price?
  2. Are the meals included?
  3. Are linens included?
  4. Is the meeting space included?
  5. Are audio visual items available and what do they cost?
  6. What are extra charges we might have? (An example from our site would be catering beyond the meals, or canoeing, both which are not included in the rates).

Growing In Faith With Life Enrichment Center

 

Also, never book a site without a site visit. A place that looks wonderful on the website may have a totally different look and feel in person. Most sites are happy to have you come and see the place. If you are unable to do this, recruit someone to do it for you. You will be glad you did.

Cost of an event like this is important. It is a major factor in planning. But it is not the only factor, and the cheapest may not always be the best option (but it may be as well). As you consider planning a retreat, you will also need to consider other questions like:

  1. What am I trying to accomplish or what is my goal for this event?
  2. What will be the theme?
  3. What am I looking for in a site?
  4. Who will be invited?
  5. How will this be financed?
  6. Who can be the leader?
  7. What is the best date?
  8. How many days(nights) should this be?

Watch here for more articles on this subject. We, as are other conference centers, are here to help you. Most sites have a dedicated person who is assigned to work with you throughout the planning.  For us it is Connie, and she can be reached at 352-787-0313 or cbartos@flumc.org. Want to know what it costs? That depends on your needs. Contact Connie and she can give you a quote from LEC.

Let us know if you have any question. 

Check out the following for more information:

http://www.lecretreats.org/mainblog/what-is-a-retrea

http://www.lecretreats.org/mainblog/planning-a-womens

http://www.lecretreats.org/retrea-leaders-information

http://www.lecretreats.org/mainblog/five-questions-to-consider-when-planning-a-retrea-or-conference

 

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Topics: Retreat and Conference Planning, retreat

What is a Retreat?

Posted by Rev. Jess Schload, CCCP

Jul 19, 2014 7:30:00 AM

I remember, as a Jr. High age youth, going with my youth group from our small church to a retreat at a camp near Gettysburg, PA. As a young teen, I had no idea what a “retreat” was, but I knew I was going away for a weekend with my friends, and that sounded great. I had an awesome time. We played games, got to stay up late and talk, had a campfire, and I think I remember having some serious times as well. I came home fired up and excited about the weekend and my commitment to going to church grew.

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I was tired, but it was a good tired. This retreat thing was fun. I wanted to do it again!

Looking back, I can now describe why it was great. I did not understand it then, but now I know a bit of what happened at beautiful Camp Nawakwa.

I had a weekend away from the everyday life and spent a wonderful and growing time with caring adult leaders and my friends.  For a weekend I was able to set aside issues from school and home, and get away. My relationship with others grew in a deep way and I grew closer to God. Maybe that is why they call it a retreat. You truly retreat from the everyday to grow in a special way. 

Whether it is an event for teens or adults, retreats can be a vital part of growth in your faith. All of us, like Jesus did, need to get away from the everyday once and a while to have an opportunity to grow in our faith. Retreats at a camp or retreat center get you out of your element and puts you in a special place apart. Retreat centers have a mission of providing that place apart. They are usually in beautiful rural locations, and you can feel the peace as you arrive on site.

Growing In Faith With Life Enrichment Center Retreats can be done alone, or with a group. They can be unstructured, for prayer and meditation, or planned out in every detail with worship, preaching, teaching, fun and fellowship. I have been serving at retreat centers for over 20 years and no two retreats were ever the same. The people involved and God makes each experience special.

I hope you have been on a retreat. If you have, you may understand what I am trying to say in this short article. If you have never been to one, I encourage you to check one out, or plan a retreat for your Sunday School class, youth, entire church, or other organization you are a part of in your life. In today’s connected world, sometimes we need to disconnect. A retreat can help you do just that.

Check out other articles in this blog for retreat planning information. More will be added soon.

Rev. Jess Schload has been the director of the Life Enrichment Retreat Center since 2007. Prior to that he was the Executive Director at Geneva Point Center in New Hampshire and served churches in Pennsylvania and Indiana. He is ordained in the Church of the Brethren and is a Certified Conference Center Professional. He can be reached at 352-787-0313 or jess@lecretreats.org

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Topics: Retreat and Conference Planning

Planning a Women's Retreat?

Posted by Jaynie Schutlz, Co-Founder, Retreat Central

Jul 8, 2014 2:30:00 AM

Credit for this article to Retreat Central (https://www.retreatcentral.com). Retreat Central is a great resource for retreat planning including searching for centers in your area. Used with permission.

The question so often asked of women is “how do you do it all?”  There are countless articles, interviews and even movies with this theme. 

Untitled-3-1I think the question behind the question is how we do more with the same or fewer resources than our fellow humans, men.  We both share the same number of hours in a day but somehow women seem to get so many more things accomplished.  The question of how we spend our time and attention is a terrific theme for a ladies retreat.  Women’s retreats are designed to enable us to take a step back, recharge and refocus on what really matters in our lives.  There are many ways the theme of “doing it all” or “doing more with less” can be incorporated into retreats. 

Let’s look at the key ingredients of every retreat: 

  1. Lodging 
  2. Food 
  3. Program    

Lodging
Choosing a facility with a lovely environment is essential to this theme.  It does not need to be fancy or expensive, but it does need to be well-thought out in design and hopefully in a beautiful environment.  To bring the theme to life through accommodations, share with participants early on why this particular site was selected.  Make sure the facility managers help you access all the features of the property.  They know all the best uses and surprises!  For example, ask to host a break out or cocktail hour under the trees or in a special enclave.  If there is a nice chapel or outdoor amphitheater, utilize it for moments of sharing and group building.  Most retreat centers are significant less expensive than hotels and in fact “do more with less”.

Food
Meals are a really easy way to bring forward “doing it all”.  Have the chefs share some of their tips for cost-savings and kitchen efficiencies.  Great chefs never have food waste during preparation and they have amazing ideas participants can apply these secrets at home.  You can set up food-based programs for exploring creativity and/or group building with real life exercises such as building “lunches to go” with only seven ingredients or developing a weekly meal plan that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes/night. 

Program
The theme goes straight to the heart through the program.  Through the program the women will bond with each other and build a lifelong connection to your organization (church).  The program should build in intensity beginning with sharing and ending on commitment.  For example, beginNew Call-to-Action the weekend with each woman talking about their daily lives - what are they like?  Are they similar to each other?  Then move to tips and ideas of ways they can help each other feel strong and stable in their daily lives.  Finally, end with each person choosing one thing to strengthen and one thing to drop along with a plan for checking in with each other regularly before the next retreat. 

These ideas can help the women you serve appreciate themselves and your organization for years ahead.

Join our e-newsletter and receive retreat planning tips every month!

By Jaynie Schutlz, Co-Founder, Retreat Central 
Jaynie Schultz created Garrett Creek Ranch with her mother more than 20 years ago. She served as the founding Director of Sales and Marketing and is involved in many non-profit organizations and leadership development programs.

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Topics: Retreat and Conference Planning, retreat, Christian women, Women's Retreat, Christian women's retreat, planning women's retreat

Grace is God's Constant Loving Presence....

Posted by Guest Author Rev. Kevin Witt

Jun 19, 2014 8:04:00 AM

Back in September of 2013, Kevin Witt wrote this blog on the topic of "Grace". I found it very helpful. We have shared some of Kevin's writings before. Learn more about him below. Thanks Kevin for your permission to run this article.

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Grace is God’s constant loving presence in our lives actively engaged for the good of all. The Wesleyan spiritual tradition offers three helpful windows into the nature of grace all of which were integral aspects of 1chapel_duwrgympwhat inspired and motivated me as a camper and a growing leader.

Preceding Grace (Prevenient Grace) focuses on the way God showers us with love in many forms and actively works on behalf of our greatest good before we fully recognize that God is involved, before we fully embrace God in various aspects of our lives, and before we have an abiding trust in God’s love as the foundation for our decisions, priorities and actions.  God is present and drawing near to us.  The wideness of this love recognizes that no one is outside the care of God.  We are called to honor the divine spark within ourselves and each person, which draws us all to our Creator.

We never withhold our love and respect until we feel others have earned it, recognized it, or until someone fully conforms to our expectations or theological understandings, because God does not withhold grace.  God loves us first (prevenient means “comes before”) and so we love as a natural response to being loved.  Without a doubt, such a level of acceptance and genuine concern for the good of individuals and the good of all is healing and helps persons experience and identify God’s companionship in their lives.

Accepting Grace (Justifying Grace) is the love of God assuring us that all this is a gift.  Our oneness with God and God’s love for us is not something that depends upon our ability to do the good and right without fail.  Once we recognize the nature of God’s love for us and the world, we begin to understand who we are meant to be and what will give our life its greatest joy and purpose.  We can feel a deep separation from God, however, if we base our relationship with God on our own ability to live flawlessly.
If we make an honest assessment of our lives, we see that we have sometimes done and do things that cause harm to ourselves and to others either by our action or inaction.  We have not always been attentive to loving God either.  The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ speaks definitively about God’s answer in the face of this reality.  Accepting Grace involves our acceptance of God’s acceptance of us, which is a generous, forgiving love.  As teachers and leaders, part of our role is to build people’s faith, trust and confidence in this enormous love and to invite them to embrace God who embraces them as they navigate the ups and downs of life.  As leaders it is our privilege to also extend Accepting Grace to those in our groups on behalf of God and to encourage them to do the same for each other.

Transforming Grace (Sanctifying Grace) is God’s loving empowerment and involvement in our lives that enables us to grow more like Christ. Christian discipleship involves many transformations of thought and action.  Sanctifying grace invites us to open ourselves to be shaped by God so the sacredness of a life of love can infiltrate our way of being.  This is a life-long process.  In contrast to the attempt to be a good person to prove our worth or our ability, we are moved by the Spirit to love out of joy, thankfulness and recognition that we are already cherished in the heart of God, as are all human beings and the entire creation.

New Call-to-Action Loving God, loving ourselves, and loving the world emanates from grateful hearts.  Teachers and leaders can enhance this process by encouraging people to engage in what John Wesley called “Acts of Piety” and “Acts of Mercy”.  Acts of Piety are the habits and practices we incorporate regularly into our lives to help us draw closer and to stay in love with God.   Acts of Mercy include following Christ in a life of doing good and avoiding harm while inviting others to join in.   A servant’s heart, sacrifice and a reordering of priorities are inevitable when following Christ.  Such is a life of grace.
We have a unique and special mission as Christian camp and retreat ministries, which is amazing and beautiful.  It is our privilege and priority to nurture people as disciples of  Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  This is our gift within the overall spectrum of camps and retreats available out there.  If we forget our primary purpose and reason for being, in many ways we become redundant, unnecessary since other types of camps and retreat experiences are already offered.  I think our greatest strength and contribution to the society, not just the Church, hinges on living deeply in our Christian identity.  We may learn from others and expand the type of activities and services we provide, but it is crucially important not to simply mimic other types of camps and retreat centers and thus become generic.
Watering down our purpose to the point where our camp and retreat focus and programs become virtually indistinguishable from other types of camps creates serious difficulties long-term.   Kenda Creasy Dean – Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary – lifts up the essential importance of being inextricably immersed in the grace of God.  Without this, what we do may have the appearance of Christianity but not the power to transform lives or to inspire life-long Christian discipleship.  A hesitancy to actually do what Jesus did often produces a drift into a spectator spirituality focused on meeting our own satisfaction and interests alone, rather than being profoundly shaped by the love of God, the love of others, and a more mature form of self-love. It is the grace of God that transforms us and supplies us inspiration to pursue a meaningful life distinctly different from what a consumer mindset would produce.
Unfortunately, a shallower experience of Christianity is proving to have a widespread impact based on the extensive National Study of Youth and Religion which Kenda Creasy Dean references in her book – “Almost Christian.”  This book provides an eye opening look for leaders and parents.  Many young people fail to observe adults around them being truly guided by and transformed by a relationship with God that actually moves them to take risks to live out their Christian faith.  For a growing number of youth and young adults religion is becoming inconsequential as a result.  It is distressingly true even among a significant number who are actively involved in local churches and extension ministries of the church.  This can change, but only if we are very intentional to hone the experiences we offer to align with our core mission.
Making disciples for the transformation of the world is a grace full undertaking.  I think our camp staff and volunteers will be much more inspired if they can catch a vision of this great movement of God that they are a part of.

Ephesians 2:For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Questions to think about:

  1. How might you begin to build a culture of gratitude and grace?
  2. Which of the three dimensions of grace (preceding, accepting and transforming) is your strength and which do you need to expand so that your guests and participants can more fully experience the fullness of God’s grace?
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Rev. Kevin Witt, Certified Camp Director, is the moderator and a primary contributor to the blog (http://camp-retreat-ministry.org/).  He has extensive personal and professional experience within camp and retreat ministry.  Kevin currently serves with the Leadership Ministries Division of the GBOD.

He provides workshops, seminars and consultations on many aspects of camp and retreat ministry and serves on planning teams for national trainings and certification studies.

He is the co-author of two books: the Retreat Leader’s Manual and Twists of Faith: Ministry with Youth at the Turning Points of Their Lives.

Kevin has developed many other resources and coordinates a very active Camp and Retreat Leader Network (CRLN) where over 1,000 leaders of faith based camp and retreat ministry share beneficial information and mutual support.

To join this free CRLN network or to contact Kevin – kwitt@gbod.org

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Topics: Spiritual Growth, retreat, retreat alone, United Methodist Church, Christian grace, grace

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