John Brown University students can find themselves bored on the weekends, wondering how to make it through another week of assignments, tests and caf food.
The student ministry leadership team (SMLT) offers their annual solution: the Men’s and Women’s retreat.
The retreats’ timing is deliberate, during the spring semester, when students are swamped with mid-term assignments and feeling the effects of a much-needed break.
This year on March 6 and 7 SMLT led JBU men and women on overnight retreats to help provide spiritual renewal, community and adventure for each student that signed up for this year’s activities.
Director of campus ministries, Molly Tester, was inspired to get more involved with the organization because of her experience with the Women’s retreat the previous year.
“Last year I was on the women’s retreat planning committee and loved the idea of being a part of something on campus that was focused on helping girls get closer to each other and to God,” Tester said.
“I applied to be a campus ministry director after that and was so excited when I got the job,” she added.
The planning process for the women’s retreat started in January with a group of five women and included the input from some of the University Staff. This year the planning committee decided on the theme, “change,” to overarch the activities and lessons that would be part of this year’s retreat.
“One of the ways we decided upon the theme of change was by sitting down and asking, ‘What are people going through? What does our campus need to hear? How can this retreat meet people where they are at?’” said Tester.
“We felt like the idea of change was applicable to every life situation because you would be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t going through the process of change,” she explained.
Tester noted how the retreat was not just a time for relaxation, but allowed the women to grow together spiritually through both worship and small group discussion.
The retreat consisted of three sessions in which the girls participated in worship and listened to the speaker Jill Carver speak about trusting in the name of God.
“He is to be our anchor and strong tower in the midst of life’s changes,” said Tester.
“Apart from the sessions, we had a bonfire with s’mores, played games, and may have had a minor dance party. I can neither confirm nor deny that happened,” Tester said.
Junior, Melissa Bakke, attended the women’s retreat and noted how the time was a great opportunity to pause from the busyness of life and hear what God was laying upon her heart.
“God absolutely spoke through Jill. Her words on change will be principles that I will take with me for the rest of my life,” said Bakke, “It was also such a great time to get away from campus for a little bit and truly feel the rest that God’s presence brings when we choose to stop and listen to Him.”
During the men’s retreat, Luke Dinger, director for campus ministries, played a key role in planning and organizing a weekend to unite and help spiritually build the JBU men. Dinger said the planning process was something he eagerly looked forward to each week.
“Planning for the men’s retreat was a blast,” said Dinger. “Meeting with a couple of guys to form a vision for the weekend was fun. Obviously it took some work, but the anticipation of a bunch of guys relaxing and learning for a week was motivating for us.”
Through prayerful consideration, the planning committee for the men’s retreat came up with the theme, “discovering purpose.” Though there was a set schedule that was created prior to the weekend, Dinger said there were no set expectations of what was to come out of the weekend itself.
“There were no expectations before this trip,” said Dinger. “These kind of trips are determinant on the attitudes of the guys. If you come to the retreat willing to relax, and have good conversation with others over our sessions led by Steve Beers, hiking excursions, etc., it would be pretty hard not to have a good time,” he added.
Student learned, reflected and explored nature in the ‘Natural State’, and each retreat offered time to pause and help one another grow in Christ.