The Benefits of a GAP Retreat :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

The Benefits of a GAP Retreat

Laura Berrey
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Over a decade ago, my husband and I began taking an annual Goals and Planning (GAP) Retreat. Our first one originated from a request by GFA to submit a copy of our ministry and personal goals, but it was so successful and so helpful to our marriage, lives, and ministry that we have continued doing it every year with few exceptions.

On our GAP Retreat, we take about twenty-four hours (or more, if we can wrangle it) to get away from our home, our children, and our work, in order to seek God’s will for the upcoming year. This twenty-four-hour retreat gives us a focused time to pray, plan, and connect as a couple.

We have seen many benefits from participating in this annual retreat.

It has helped us to be effective and intentional, not just busy.

Church ministries, our Bible college responsibilities, and outside speaking engagements often fill our lives to the brim. We can easily become too busy. To missionaries, laziness is repulsive; God’s people sacrifice financially so that we can work. But being busy, in and of itself, is not the same as being effective.

Taking a day to “come apart” and assess our activities and goals helps us to know where our focus should be. It creates intentionality around our tasks. We have a goal and a purpose for each ministry. There's forward motion, not just activity.

It has helped us determine which activities to pursue.

Some years during this GAP Retreat, the Lord has laid a theme on our hearts: a burden for our ministry for that year. One year it was the spiritual growth of families. That year, we accepted a number of extra speaking opportunities, and they skewed heavily in the direction of topics around building the family.

At one point during that year, Tim received requests to do two different weekend ministries that required travel. Both were excellent opportunities, but it was humanly impossible to do both. If it hadn’t been for our GAP Retreat, we would have struggled to determine which one we should accept. However, one of those requests was for a family camp, and the other was unrelated to our theme for the year. Because we knew what God wanted us to focus on that year, we knew which invitation to accept.

It has helped us accomplish our personal and ministry goals.

One of our goals that first year was to read our goals together once a month and track our progress. Productivity experts tell us that writing goals down and regularly reviewing them is one of the best indicators of potential success. It’s easy to forget our goals if we don’t keep them constantly in front of us.

Each year we track our progress on goals throughout the year. Some we finish. Others we realize were unnecessary and cross them off. A few are partially finished and renewed again the next year.

At the beginning of every GAP Retreat, we read through our goals from the year before, thanking God for helping us to accomplish some and for leading us flawlessly away from others. His wisdom is prescient; ours is faulty and incomplete.

It has helped us do God’s work together.

Recently Tim and I learned of a couple who backed out of a ministry position because of marital difficulties. Unfortunately, this is not rare. If marital disagreements or problems can keep a couple from doing the work of God, then marital unity is a goal worthy of hot pursuit by missionaries. Missionary work by nature is more highly stressful than many other work or ministry options. It’s no surprise, then, that the mission fields of this world are littered with the graves of marriages. Who needs marital unity more than missionaries?

Our annual GAP Retreat helps us know each other better, communicate more clearly, and grow in unity of purpose and desire. We don’t have competing goals; we work together as one flesh for God’s Kingdom. This is impossible without clear, ongoing communication.

It has helped us to help each other with our goals and responsibilities.

When I know Tim’s goals, I can accomplish my wifely role of helping him with them. If I am unaware of his goals, I can’t. It’s that simple, and the reverse is also true: he must hear from me if he is to help me to accomplish my tasks and goals. One year while on furlough, Tim continued to schedule more meetings and ministry events even as I faintly warned that our homeschool work was behind schedule. It wasn’t until our GAP Retreat that I was able to show him the calendar and discuss our scheduling issues with him. As soon as he saw the depth of my homeschool concerns, he created a workable schedule for our family that enabled us to fulfill our scheduled ministries but also focus on and finish our homeschooling. We had to work together to accomplish that goal.

It has helped us to know each other better.

Every year, Tim and I walk out of our GAP Retreat knowing each other better. We've listened to each other's plans, goals, fears, and hesitancies. Usually there is at least one burden lifted. We hear concerns in full that we have previously not had time to thoroughly discuss, and that drives us to a game plan for caring for those concerns. In this way, a little bit of communication can avert large problems.

I urge you to consider taking a GAP Retreat. Maybe it will be an annual event for you. Maybe it needs to become a quarterly one. The busier you are, the more urgent a GAP Retreat will be, and the more often you will find yourself needing it. The feeling you fight daily of being overwhelmed might be relieved or helped by simply taking some time to pray and plan. I find it encouraging that Jesus, in the midst of extremely busy days of ministry, would often seek a quiet place to pray and talk to His Father. How much more necessary is this for us?