I love just about everything to do with retreats: getting away, laughing, storytelling, being outside, campfires, Bible study, deep sharing, exploring and sharing food. I’m always up for going on a retreat.

In high school we retreated as a youth group for overnights at state parks. I don’t remember what we studied or talked about or whether we had a theme for the weekend, but I do remember the play. The fun. The acceptance. The feeling of being part of something life-giving. Of being reminded that I am loved.

In college I retreated with the campus ministry group to a nearby state park. I remember the late-night conversations, the questioning and learning together, the songs around the campfire and the morning pancakes. Again, retreating was about being part of something life-giving. Of being reminded that I am loved.

Serving in a church, retreats continued. This time I was the one planning a women’s retreat. I remember the theme and Bible stories a bit better. But what stands out the most is communion. On this retreat, we mixed the ingredients to make bread. We kneaded the dough. We literally added our tears, joys and hopes to the baking of the bread. That bread was then shared during communion—a fitting conclusion to our time together.

That’s where the power of retreats is found: in communion. Growing up I didn’t have the language to make sense of why I loved to go on retreats. Over time I came to see that the underlying thread could be found in communion. In receiving God’s goodness and love through my relationships. In being fully known and fully accepted. In receiving unconditional love from those gathered and from the God who gathered us together. In breaking bread and seeing the body of Christ next to me.


Going on a retreat with a big group may not be for everyone. And maybe your church doesn’t offer retreats right now. But you can plan your own. As a family, pick a place, pack a lunch or treat yourself to a restaurant, bring activities that give you joy and go. Go together. Break bread together. Sing songs. Play crazy games. Read the Bible together. Retreat. And when you do, remember that you are part of something life-giving and that you are loved.

If you can’t get away, plan for some family time at home. Grab a children’s Bible or book and delve into a story. Read it together. Act it out. Talk about it. Take some intentional time to immerse yourself as a family in God’s word. Sparkhouse Family has great resources for all ages.


Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God (Colossians 3:16).

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, spouse of an ELCA pastor and co-author of The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

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