What is the benefit of sending people to Kerith Retreats? We don’t know what we don’t know!

By Sam Doerksen

I decided that today was a good day to go for breakfast. We have a small café in town, and I had been working for a few hours already, so it seemed like the right thing to do. I could already taste the eggs and sausage. It will be good, I thought. I got into my vehicle and began to back out of the garage to the street. Before entering the street, I noticed a young boy on his way to school. One vehicle passed him, others who were walking passed by him, but he seemed oblivious to what was going on around him. He walked on the side of the road, so no danger there. He did not notice my vehicle. He was walking and looking for, I am assuming, the bugs in the grass. He was so intent on looking at the grass he rarely looked up to see where he was going or what was going on.

Caring for the soul is usually more about being than doing. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”

There are times in life when we get so busy that we seem to “forget” who we are, or to what we have been called. Kerith Retreats allows time to stop, rest, recalibrate and then re-engage! Are any one of these missing in your ministry life? We generally only tend to notice what’s missing if we stop and consider what is happening or if someone else points it out. But if someone else points it out, are we then willing to take note of it and do something about it?

How can we know what we are missing? And if we don’t notice it, does it even matter? Matthew Sleeth in his book 24/6 explains that what is missing does matter! He tells this story while in training to become a medical doctor:

Six of us stood around a translucent, illuminated X-ray view screen. We were third year medical students, and our overall knowledge of the basic sciences would never be better. We had mastered anatomy, pathology, physiology, and pharmacology. We knew everything about medicine – in theory.

“Now we were ready for our first lesson in radiology. So, we took a deep breath, squared our shoulders, and stared at the front and side views of the chest X-rays on the screen. ‘See anything amiss?’ the radiologist asked. Quiet . . .

“After spending a lot of time searching unsuccessfully for the problem, the teacher gave a clue. ‘Where is the left clavicle?’ Where was the left clavicle? It was missing. We hadn’t seen it because it wasn’t there. The patient’s collarbone had been eaten away, almost certainly by cancer. The take-home point? What’s missing does matter.”

Attending a Kerith Retreat may help you to see what is missing!

How it benefits you:

  • Time and space to settle in and go over the “checklist of life” to ask, how are we doing?
  • Being proactive in making change is something that is taught at the retreats. It can be difficult to find time to do personal diagnostic testing to see how we are doing on a personal level, ministry level and on the home front. I can attest to the significant benefit of learning to be proactive having attended Kerith as a guest in 2010. Some of the changes I made are a big reason why I am still in ministry today. My former way of doing life and ministry was simply not sustainable long term.
  • Go back to the basics. Some of the teaching topics are just that! Ministry is good, there are always people that need care and it’s a blessing to be involved in; yet sometimes we forget that God is God, and we are not.
  • Time to process. Two-day seminars are good and have their place. The challenge is that it can be difficult to follow through on what has been learned unless one has planned some time to do so. A Kerith Retreat is seven days, which allows ample time to process, speak to the directors and spend time with the Lord.
  • Rest for the body and rest for the soul. Years ago my mom, who was diabetic, had an open sore on her leg. What procedure did the medical staff do to repair the sore? They let it rest. No bandage. No healing creams. We could say they did nothing, but in reality resting allowed the sore to heal. Resting is doing something valuable.

How it benefits your ministry:

  • Processing conversations with those outside of our sphere of influence help you learn what has worked well, what should be avoided and how we all need each other. You also learn that trying to do too many things at the same time doesn’t really work.
  • I am a better team player when I have had some physical rest and when my soul is at rest. I engage with my team better. I can deal with conflict better.
  • The congregation or the people that we are working with generally get a better you! We minister out of who we are, so we want to give others our best selves.
  • Stay clear of narcissism! It’s not all about us. We need to be able to have purpose in our work. But rather than do everything, we need to learn to know our limits – when to say yes and when to say no. We need to know the difference between when something is an emergency and needs an immediate yes, and when something is important and needs a scheduled yes.

How it benefits your family:

  • Developing better rhythms for life. Mark Buchanan says something like this: Balance is good for a canoe; rhythms are good for life.
  • Establishing healthy boundaries that work for you, your family and your role in ministry – having no boundaries takes a toll on everyone.
  • Understanding that work and rest are not in competition, but rather they work together for the greater good. It’s important for us to remember the psalmists caution in Psalms 127:2: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves.” In the 1984 NIV, the footnotes say, “for while they sleep he provides for . . . those he loves.” Rest is a provision from our creator!
  • We can’t follow Deuteronomy 6:4-9 if the only time we have with our family is when we are worn out and irritated. Take the time to be with your family and teach them. Walk with them through life’s journey.

    “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

There are times when guests have come to the retreat centre not realizing how tired they were. It is only when they put the brakes on that they realize how exhausted they were. They didn’t know what they were missing – but what was missing was rest.

Remember the young student that I saw this morning? Watching him captivated by nature on his way to school, undistracted by everything else going on, reminded me that a Kerith Retreat is a place we can go to without the daily distractions that we face in our work.

Finally, consider this:

Why not send your pastor, missionary or parachurch leader for a retreat? Christmas is coming!

This is not only for the benefit of the attendee, but also for the folks that these leaders live with and work with. We talk about who they are, not just what they do because we minister out of who we are – that is how we spend our time at a Kerith Retreat.

We now have three centres in Canada: Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

Remember: We don’t know what we don’t know!


Sam Doerksen and his wife, Pauline, are the program directors at our Manitoba Kerith Retreats location. For more information about our retreats, visit KerithRetreats.ca.

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