Our family retreat looked quite different this year. Instead of the beach, we were in the mountains. Instead of an all-inclusive hotel, we had a private cabin and fixed our own meals. Instead of hanging out by the pool, we dodged raindrops (and hail stones!) outside and watched a movie inside. Instead of waking early to see the sunrise, we stayed up late to watch the sunset (because it’s SO late these days!). But the results were the same as we dug into God’s Word and His will for our family. We believe that God assembled our family for His glory and that our interrelationships are meant, among other things, to model God’s Kingdom on earth. Sometimes we need to reconnect with that identity and with each other. Annually seems to work well.
Because the opportunity to stay at this ‘cabin’ (really more of a large, beautiful home on the side of a lush, green mountain) came suddenly, we didn’t have a lot of preparation time. The husband and I have been reading/reviewing Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp—especially the latter chapters on childhood and adolescence—so we focused the three-day retreat on character. The plans were simple.
The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Character Round Table
The first session had two parts.
a) Discuss our theme verse, Luke 6:45 (above). We linked this with other verses and explored what Jesus meant when he said this. I’m not going to give you all the answers on this, but it brought conviction on us all.
b) Brainstorm positive character qualities and write them on a poster/large paper. We added to and referred to this for the rest of the retreat.
In the second section, we built each other up (Eph 5:29) by praising character qualities we had seen in each other. For example, I encouraged our son regarding his compassion toward a difficult classmate this past year.
In the final session, having prayed about this through the weekend, we each shared one character quality that we would personally like to strengthen in the coming year. We even gave permission for others in the family to gently correct and/or encourage us in this areas.
For Bible study, we looked at four parables of Jesus, discussing positive and negative character traits of the people in the stories. If you have more than four people in your family, just choose some additional parables.
- The Wise Man and the Foolish Man (Matthew 7:24-27)
- The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-36)
- The Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32)
- Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
Each of us led one session, so our children (currently 12 and 9 years old) had the opportunity to lead out in Bible study: reading, asking questions, focusing the discussion.
Over each meal, we entertained a discussion question. These are designed to give all of us space to say the difficult things that, perhaps, we’ve been hesitant to share in ‘real life.’
- How has our family changed since last year?
- What is one of your favorite memories of this past year?
- What are we doing well as a family? What do we need to stop or change?
- If someone outside our family described us, what would they say? How would each of us describe our family to an outsider? (In the pattern of Matthew 16:13-16 in which Jesus asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” then “Who do you say I am?”)
- What do you want our family to do or accomplish in the next three months? . . . the next twelve months?
- What excites you about the future? What scares you?
As usual, each person shared his or her story of meeting Jesus (a.k.a. testimony). Every year, we share a little more, go a little deeper in this. The kids need to practice their own stories, and they also need to hear more of their parents stories as they mature. The emphasis this year fell on how a parent’s rebellion/sin isn’t a license for the children to do likewise. In fact, we want them to learn from our experiences and stay closer to God than we did in our younger days.
We revisited our family mission statement and decided it needed no changes.
Each person also chose a fun activity in which the whole family participated. I planned a short hike for the last day, but the weather interfered. *sad face*