The following chart visually represents the complete How to Build a Retreat methodology. From conception to detailed planning, the chart maps-out the use and placement of the components and activities that make for a great retreat. The soon to be released e-book entitled, How to Build a Retreat, will provide details and examples of each component, and additionally discuss the methodological and theological influences of this method, such as the See-Judge-Act methodology, contextual theology, narrative theology and the theology of accompaniment.
In presenting this method in workshops, the block concept has proven to be very helpful in retreat planning. By block, I simply mean the natural blocks of time that divide the schedule of the retreat. For example, 9a.m. – Noon is a natural block separated by breakfast and lunch. Blocks can also be created based on uniqueness or importance. For instance, arrival, since it involves many journey components, may be considered its own block, and a late night experiential activity may also be a designated block. Additionally, by considering pre and post retreat blocks, the retreat stays connected to the long-term life of the youth community.
By viewing a retreat as a series of blocks, the retreat team is able to maximize each block time, and create a meaning flow within each block, and within the entire retreat. The chart helps remind the retreat team of the valuable components available for each block, and keeps the team from feeling like everything needs to be accomplished within one block. While blocks, in a way, can stand alone, they are also connected to each other and can build upon each other. The creative work produced in block 2 can reappear in a prayer service in block 4; the theme presented in block 1 can take on a more personal and deeper meaning in block 3; and the personal healing promoted in block 2 can move into a communal context in block 5.
In planning a retreat, the block concept and the chart are valuable tools designed to help us build soulful and creative retreats for our young people. In the coming weeks, USHispanicMinistry.com will publish brief articles that will provide a sampling of the many components named in this chart. The complete and detailed work, How to Build a Retreat, will arrive in the months ahead.