How to Design a Personal Retreat

Personal Spiritual Retreat

Here are a few reasons why you may need a retreat.

Self Care: We’re slowly getting the message that when we’re spent and burned out, we’re no good to anyone. A retreat can be very restorative, and leave you ready to be your old self again—which may be a great blessing to those around you!

Healing: Each of us may have a different reasons to take a retreat. Natural disasters, economical difficulties, crime, illnesses, and more are part of our lives, and most of us didn’t have time to step back and process it all. A retreat can help you do this. Particularly if you’ve come through a difficult personal experience a retreat may be just what you need to process those difficult feelings.

Spiritual Renewal: We have the need of connecting to something beyond ourselves. Exploring and deepening your relationship to nature and God can bring us some much-needed peace.

Finding Purpose: There may be times in your life when you feel like you’re out of step with your purpose. Maybe you thought you were fulfilling it for the last decade, but now you’re feeling the nagging intuition that it’s time for something to change. A retreat gives you the peace and quiet you need to really explore your feelings and get to the core of the changes you need to make.

Community Connections: Even if you regularly spend time with your friends, a retreat offers a unique opportunity to connect with other like-minded people. The activities are different from the norm, which encourages deeper conversations and faster bonding. The connections you make at retreats can sustain you in a unique way.

Experience Something New: A retreat gives you the excuse to try something different, to step out of your comfort zone and experience yourself in a new way. You see new things, experience new ways of living, and give yourself options for how you may want to make changes when you get back home. Maybe you want to incorporate more prayer time into your daily life, for example, or schedule a meeting with a mentor a couple times a month? In other words, a retreat can get you out of a rut.

Connect to What We Love: When was the last time you really felt an inner sense of joy? When did you delight to wake up just because you loved being alive? A retreat where you spend time in a beautiful outdoor setting, use your body in new and refreshing ways, and please your senses in ways you usually don’t have time for, can open your heart up to the joy in your life once again.

Schedule your retreat as an appointment with Allah just as you would any other appointment. Write it into the calendar.

Find a secluded place where you can be alone with Allah and your thoughts.

Meet Allah alone. If you have a young family to care for ask a friend or relative to care for them for a day so you can meet with Allah alone.

Make it an overnight experience to give yourself plenty of time. Don’t rush it. Make it two nights if you are really hungry for Allah.

  1. Read the Qur’an or a book that really connects you to Allah. Perhaps target to read one of the chapters in the Qur’an or one specific chapter in your target book according to your need.
  2. Discipline yourself in your daily prayers.
    1. Do each of the prayers on time with good ablution and intentional preparation,
    2. Listen a good call to prayer, feel it as if you are in the most sacred space.
    3. Bring your prayer rug, takke/hijab, apply good musk, and get comfortable clothing
    4. Do your tasbihat slowly and try to feel what you say in the presence of Allah.
  3. Fast or at least drink lots of juices. It is not a time for feasting. Take along some crackers or snacks. But don’t let fasting distract you from prayer. It is more important to pray than to fast.
  4. Go for a walk with Allah’s presence in the nature and try to contemplate and feel the presence of Allah in the nature. Read risale about how nature reflects Allah’s majesty and presence.
  5. Sing Nasheeds / İlahi to Allah from memory or from an Ilahi book.
  6. Remember, Allah is listening and enjoying fellowship with you.
  7. Take a nap (kaylulah) and refresh your body and soul.
  8. Read a good devotional book on your spiritual need or the deeper life, such as Jawshan, prayers of Prophet Muhammad, life purpose, inner reflections and other  books and read the meaning of prayers as well. Don’t try reading the prayer books  all at once. Read a chapter each hour or a couple of reading periods during the day after each prayer.
  • A Quran with meaning and interpretation.
  • A book of choice that will remind you your servanthood, relationship with Allah and will renew you spiritually and mentally
  • A notebook for journaling
  • A pen and/or pencil
  • A devotional book to read (Dua books)
  • A clock with an alarm
  • A comfortable walking shoes
  • A Walkman or CD player and earphones with Quran, nasheeds/ilahi, and sermons
  • A pillow and blanket you can use to lay flat on your face
  • Juices to drink and water bottle
  • Study and read the Qur’an as Allah is speaking to you
  • Listen nasheeds and sing to Allah yourself (Ey Allahım beni senden ayırma-Yunus Emre)
  • Journal in a notebook as if you are writing a letter to Allah
  • Listen to Quran recitation from good Qaries
  • Take a nap/kaylule with the intention of having good dreams
  • At night study the stars with Him and recite relevant verses from the Quran or read the poem ‘Yıldızları Konuşturan Bir Yıldızname’
  • Write out your prayer as a love letter to Allah
  • Listen to a good sermon
  • Read a book on needed subject
  • Go for a bike ride with the intention of reflecting on His creation
  • Eat a great meal thanking Allah for every good thing you taste and try to feel every bite as Allah is caring and favoring you
  • Go fishing and read the chapter Rahman from the Qur’an while you are fishing
  • Evaluate your life and your service/hizmet to Allah
  • Have a coffee break and think of this break as if you are with your best friend / role model whom you feel so much close to Allah. Try to remember your times together and why this person so much influence on your life.
  • Memorize a verse from the Qur’an, a dua or hadith that motivates you
  • Plan your future goals in the light of His presence and in connection with Allah’s consent.
  • Meditate on the Names of Allah
  • Watch a bird, stare at the waves, study a bug by some readings from Sızıntı or fountain
  • Meditate on the Ka’be, its meaning, mosque, month of Ramadan, Qur’an and its place in your life
  • Meditate on Allah’s Creation
  • Read the Prayers of the Qur’an made by prophets
  • Play an Instrument singing nasheeeds/ilahis
  • Do a Qur’an word and concepts study
  • Don’t take gadgets along (computers, smart phones, phones, etc)
  • Don’t watch TV, movies, or listen to radio
  • Don’t fuss with stuff – keep focused on Allah, not stuff
  • Don’t play games even if they are available
  • Don’t bring your kids
  • Don’t hang around people all the time – get alone with Allah – He’s jealous!
  • Don’t eat too much or too little
  • Don’t read a novel, magazines, etc.

Here are a few things to avoid as you search for a private retreat.

  • Avoid going with other people. It is not fellowship you seek.
  • Avoid crowded areas and peak holiday times.
  • Avoid motels. They are often more temptation than quiet.
  • Avoid toys. You are not there to play so leave your TV, computer, radios and electronic gadgets at home.
  • Avoid recreation. Stay away from recreation areas, where there is too much to do.

Almost everyone lives within driving distance of a Cultural Center or Community Facility where you can find a secluded place to spend with Allah. The cost is usually pretty reasonable, especially if you plan to fast and pray. Set aside a day each quarter or one day each month and give it to Allah as your sacrificial gift. Do it alone or with a small group of people seek closer relations with Allah. You’ll be glad you did!

Activities
Think & Plan
  • Dream Allah’s Vision for you
  • Plan Goals
  • Plan Yearly Calendar
  • Write Sermons/Lessons
  • Write Thoughts/Ideas
  • Journal to Allah
  • Evaluate Your Life
  • Evaluate Your Hizmet Life
  • Make Family Plans
  • Do a Quran, Hadith, Risale, Pırlanta Study
Rest
  • Take a Nap /Kaylulah
  • Go for a Walk
  • Sing Nasheeds/Ilahis
  • Listen Qur’an Recitations
  • Converse With a Friend
  • Play an Instrument
Read and Study
  • Read Qur’an
  • Read on Leadership
  • Read on Prayer
  • Read Risale and Pırlanta
  • Listen to Qur’an
  • Listen to a Sermon
  • Study the Promises of Allah to Believers
  • Memorize Verses and Hadith
  • Meditate on Significant Symbols of Islam
  • Meditate on Creation
  • Meditate on Heaven
Sample Schedule
9:00 pm Arrive and Unwind
10:00 pm Isha and Have a Good Sleep
05:00 am Tahajjud & Devotions
05:30 am Fajr Prayer
06:30 am Rest
08:00 am Light Breakfast
09:00 am Think & Plan
10:00 am Read and Study
11:00 am Rest/Nap
12:00 pm Dhuhr Prayer
12:30 pm Light Lunch
1:00 pm Think & Plan
2:00 pm Read and Study
3:30 pm Asr Prayer
4:00 pm Read and Study
5:00 pm Rest
5:30 pm Maghrib Prayer
6:00 pm   Dinner
6:45 pm Plan next retreat
7:30 Adjurn!

Remember prayer is time we spend with Allah, not just bending Allah’s ear with a list of requests. Get to know Allah in prayerful listening, whispering, reciting, worshipping, reading, meditating, and memorizing his word.

We encourage serious intercessors to go on retreat three times per year. You will find it refreshing. Finding adequate time to get away is always a chore. Many jobs allow for personal days or vacation days which are ideal for this. We suggest taking a personal day three times a year, on Fridays, to give yourself the most amount of time to pray and grow. If it is impossible to get Friday off you may want to do a retreat beginning Sunday night through Monday, taking Monday off. Otherwise, a weekend beginning on a Friday evening through Sunday afternoon might be best.

 

Activities
Think & Plan
  • Dream Allah’s Vision for you
  • Plan Goals
  • Plan Yearly Calendar
  • Write Sermons/Lessons
  • Write Thoughts/Ideas
  • Journal to Allah
  • Evaluate Your Life
  • Evaluate Your Hizmet Life
  • Make Family Plans
  • Do a Quran, Hadith, Risale, Pırlanta Study
Rest
  • Take a Nap /Kaylulah
  • Go for a Walk
  • Sing Nasheeds/Ilahis
  • Listen Qur’an Recitations
  • Converse With a Friend
  • Play an Instrument
Read and Study
  • Read Qur’an
  • Read on Leadership
  • Read on Prayer
  • Read Risale and Pırlanta
  • Listen to Qur’an
  • Listen to a Sermon
  • Study the Promises of Allah to Believers
  • Memorize Verses and Hadith
  • Meditate on Significant Symbols of Islam
  • Meditate on Creation
  • Meditate on Heaven
Study and Preparations
  • Spend Time Reading on Vision
  • Plan your Yearly Preaching Schedule
  • Envision What Allah Longs to Do
  • Read a Book for Sermon Prep
Day 3 Sunday or Tuesday (half-day)
05:00 am Tahajjud & Devotions
05:30 am Fajr Prayer
06:30 am Rest
08:00 am Light Breakfast
09:00 am Think & Plan
10:00 am Read and Study
11:00 am Rest/Nap
12:00 pm Dhuhr Prayer
12:30 pm Light Lunch
Sample Schedule
Day 1 Friday or Sunday Evening
5:00 pm Early Bird Time (arrival and unwind)
5:30 pm Evening Prayer
6:00 pm Supper and Orientation –

“A Strategy Alone With Allah”

7:00 pm Quiet time to “be still,” walk and pray
8:00 pm Isha Prayer
9:00 pm Journaling: “Tell Allah why you came.”
10:00 pm Free time- Sleep
Day 2 Saturday on Monday
05:00 am Tahajjud & Devotions
05:30 am Fajr Prayer
06:30 am Rest
08:00 am Light Breakfast
09:00 am Think & Plan
10:00 am Read and Study
11:00 am Rest/Nap
12:00 pm Dhuhr Prayer
12:30 pm Light Lunch
1:00 pm Think & Plan
2:00 pm Read and Study
3:30 pm Asr Prayer
4:00 pm Read and Study
5:00 pm Rest
5:30 pm Maghrib Prayer
6:00 pm   Dinner
6:45 pm Study and Preparations
7:30 pm Isha Prayer
8:00 pm Journal: When you feel most connected to Allah
9:00 pm Rest and go to sleep

We encourage serious Hizmet leaders to go on retreat three times per year. You will find it refreshing. Finding adequate time to get away is always a chore. Give yourself lots of time to pray and reflect. Plan your own pace and schedule. Try alternating each hour between prayer and prayerful activities. Make it your goal to enjoy the Lord in all that you do.

 

Activities
Think & Plan
  • Dream Allah’s Vision for you
  • Plan Goals
  • Plan Yearly Calendar
  • Write Sermons/Lessons
  • Write Thoughts/Ideas
  • Journal to Allah
  • Evaluate Your Life
  • Evaluate Your Hizmet Life
  • Make Family Plans
  • Do a Quran, Hadith, Risale, Pırlanta Study
Rest
  • Take a Nap /Kaylulah
  • Go for a Walk
  • Sing Nasheeds/Ilahis
  • Listen Qur’an Recitations
  • Converse With a Friend
  • Play an Instrument
Read and Study
  • Read Qur’an
  • Read on Leadership
  • Read on Prayer
  • Read Risale and Pırlanta
  • Listen to Qur’an
  • Listen to a Sermon
  • Study the Promises of Allah to Believers
  • Memorize Verses and Hadith
  • Meditate on Significant Symbols of Islam
  • Meditate on Creation
  • Meditate on Heaven
Study and Preparations
  • Spend Time Reading on Vision
  • Plan your Yearly Preaching Schedule
  • Envision What Allah Longs to Do
  • Read a Book for Sermon Prep
Day 3 Sunday or Tuesday (half-day)
05:00 am Tahajjud & Devotions
05:30 am Fajr Prayer
06:30 am Rest
08:00 am Light Breakfast
09:00 am Duha Prayer and personal prayer time
10:00 am Pray for your people name by name and write your dreams about them
11:00 am Pray for your goals one by one and ask Allah to bless them
12:00 pm Dhuhr Prayer
12:30 pm Light Lunch
Sample Schedule
Day 1 Friday or Sunday Evening
5:00 pm Early Bird Time (arrival and unwind)
5:30 pm Evening Prayer
6:00 pm Supper and Joint Meeting – Share Your Retreat Plan
7:30 pm Journaling: “Tell Allah why you came.”
8:15 pm Isha Prayer
9:00 pm Read Scriptur / Risale / Pırlanta
9:30 pm Free time- Sleep
Day 2 Monday or Tuesday
05:00 am Tahajjud & Devotions
05:30 am Fajr Prayer
06:30 am Rest
08:00 am Light Breakfast
09:00 am Focus on Allah-Think things you are thankful in your life and Hizmet
10:00 am Focus on yourself – Mistakes, growth areas, facing with your inner self
11:00 am Focus on People- Responsibilities, caring for them, challenges
12:00 pm Nap Time
12:30 pm Dhuhr Prayer and Light Lunch
1:30 pm Think & Plan-Your role and service vision-Read
2:30 pm Think & PlanYour dreams for future-journal
3:30 pm Asr Prayer
4:00 pm Think & Plan-Plan the next quarter and make calendar
5:00 pm Rest
5:30 pm Maghrib Prayer- Reading on leadership
6:00 pm   Dinner
6:45 pm Share your reflections of the day with group
7:30 pm Isha Prayer
8:00 pm Read on leadership and vision
9:00 pm Rest and go to sleep

Remember to be flexible. The Spiritual Retreat is to meet the needs of the participants, not the needs or agenda of the organizers. Enjoy your time with your Creator – that what this time with Allah is all about.

 

Retreat Activities

Structured Activities for A Three Day Retreat

The Religion Teacher’s List of 250 Activities & Teaching Strategies

Group Discussions

Groups of five people come together and have conversation around the theme of the day, visual materials and community issues. Questions, rules, and facilitators will be used to structure the discussions.

Individual Study and Reading

Individuals will study the assigned articles by their own. They will get ready to share highlighted topics, questions and insights from their readings with the rest of the group in the reading discussion sessions.

Meal Conversations

Meal times are good opportunities for our community to know each other and build connections. Light and casual conversations will be encouraged during the lunch time with different set of table partners each day. Conversations will include dialogues like basic personal introduction, highlight of the day and some fun questions that are helping others get familiar with you in a casual manner.

Seminars

Each day several educational seminars will be offered simultaneously for our community  from 2 to 3 pm. These seminars will provide a platform for civic conversations, sound knowledge, perspectives for variety of topics offered and presented by our community members.

Community Forums

These are daily group discussion hours to engage and explore our challenges, questions, crisis, growth areas as immigrants and faith communities in US context. As a group, we will approach these issues in an analytical, critical, and constructive ways to build and present a progressive outlook for ourselves and our communities.

Group Prayers

These are five daily group prayers and worship times. These gatherings provide a spiritual and communal atmosphere to nourish our soul and heart. They are opportunities for our community to feel more connected, centered, and spiritually vital. Group chanting, prayer for other community members, involvement of our children are enriching our experience of communal spirit during this retreat.

Reading Discussions

Each day has its own theme, set of questions to explore and reading materials to digest. At the evening time, we gather to share the highlights from our assigned text with other discussion partners in our group. These sharing help the group to get richer perspective about different readings and give a chance to understand and appreciate other members approach to the same issue while expressing their own.

Keynote Speeches

Each day we aim to have a keynote speaker who will be reflecting on the theme of the day or will be speaking on some pressing issues for our communities.

Social Hours

Social hours are the partying and socializing time in a very casual and friendly atmosphere around a cup of tea, light beverages and even music and performances.  

Kids Activities

These activities aim to present a fun and memorable experience for our kids through games, group activities, outdoor activities and light faith formation classes.

13 Tips to Plan a Successful Retreat

by Heidi Richards

“Everyone needs to feel that he or she makes a difference to the organization. It is what gives meaning to their involvement.” – Heidi Richards

Retreats are great opportunities to review and assess current programs, align volunteers and move forward in the organization. They are one of the best ways to plan for the future of the organization, create greater buy-in of programs as well as create a stronger team. Retreats can give a powerful boost to the spirit and effectiveness of any group.

Well-designed and delivered retreats can lead to better understanding, clearer alignment and much stronger motivation for all stakeholders. A good retreat does not have to cost a fortune to host or attend.

Places that offer peaceful surroundings can create harmony and encourage quiet reflection. Why not hold your retreat during the off-season in your community? Hotels, resorts, bed-and-breakfasts and the like can be much less expensive during that time. A stakeholder’s home might be a viable alternative, if it is conducive to fulfilling the agenda. A casual atmosphere can help create the quiet reflection participants need to share ideas, develop plans and be “honest” in the process.

Organizing a retreat is a big responsibility. Use these ideas to make your event a well-planned and memorable success.

1. Set the tone with an inspiring theme. Telegraph the tone and purpose of your event with a theme that helps establish what you wish the outcome of the event to be. The purpose of a theme is to create excitement and anticipation. Here are examples of themes I have had the opportunity to co-create. “Lighting the Way Through Leadership:, “Meet, Mingle and Mastermind” , Leadership is…Growing other People”, “Play Hard, Think BIG”, Weekend Among the Stars”, to name a few.

2. Select your site with care. The best way to reduce distractions and promote a “big picture” perspective is to host your retreat away from the day-to-day surroundings of the organization. Make sure that the location helps to promote the “theme” for the retreat. An ocean-view location might not be the best place if your theme is “Getting Down to Business.”

3. Create interest to get the most participation. Use memos, bulletin boards, posters and internal meetings to arouse peoples’ curiosity. You could distribute a list of objectives and issues for the retreat, or even conduct a survey prior to the meeting, announcing actual results during the program. The survey is a wonderful tool to gather information from stakeholders, especially those who might not be able to attend. It will assist you in finding out what their issues are within the organization. This will also help plan the agenda.

4. Involve others in the planning process. Put together a planning team for the planning retreat. They can also be a part of the actual process during the retreat. I’m not sure who said it, but “many hands make work light.” This is also a great way to develop future leaders for the organization. By breaking down the tasks, you can concentrate on what outcomes you would like to see achieved.

5. Design the sequence of events with great care. Timing really is everything. And the key to the success of your retreat is planning the activities to get the most out of and give the most to the participants. Do you want a high-intensity working event, a laid back more relaxing atmosphere or somewhere in between? If you combine work with play, carefully consider, which should go first. Consider including some fun activities in the planning process, with the major recreation as a bonding in between the process and a celebration at the end.

6. Send out a pre-retreat agenda.
 Let stakeholders know what your vision and objectives are for the retreat. This will give them the opportunity to fully prepare for the event. It could also get their creative juices flowing.

7. Balance Energy, Enterprise and Entertainment.
 Stimulate interest and get involvement by using a full range of activities. Planning can be challenging and fun. Engage both sides of the brain, mental and physical stimulation to get the best results. Sitting in a room talking for 7 to 8 hours (or even 2 or more) without some form of physical activity can actually hinder the creative process.

8. Allow enough time to process, discuss and apply.
 Allow enough time between each activity for discussion, learning and application back to the organization. It’s better to have a full day with two activities and enough time for discussion, than a day “packed” with three or four exercises and little time for reflection.

9. Focus on new actions with “More”, “Less”, “Start” and “Stop.” 

To help in the planning process, during the program, have participants develop clear answers to the following questions:

“What do you want to do more of?”
“What do you want to do less of?”
“What do you want to start doing?”
“What do you want to stop doing?”

10. At the end of the process, you can ask participants to make another list of personal commitments using the following outline:

“I am committed to do more ______________________
“I am committed to do less _______________________
“I am committed to start doing ____________________
“I am committed to stop doing _______________________

11. If you’re the one “in charge,” don’t dominate discussions. If you do, not only will it inhibit open dialog, it will keep important issues from being fully addressed. Participants may go home with a feeling that they just wasted their time.

12. Lead participants to find areas of agreement. Finding issues people can agree on increases the chances they will also solve their own areas of disagreement.

13. Use an outside facilitator. Someone not intimately involved in the day-to-day of the organization, might actually help participants discover issues they did not know were issues. An experienced facilitator can also serve as an impartial party to keep the group on track, make sure all voices are heard and everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the process.

About the Author: Heidi Richards – is a professional speaker, Entrepreneur and the author of “The PMS Principles, Powerful Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business,” “From Wantrepreneur to Entrepreneur”and 7 other books. She is also the Founder & CEO of The WECAI Network™ www.WECAI.org – an Internet network of organizations that “Helps Women Do Business on and off the WEB.” Basic Listing is FREE.

Copyright Heidi Richards – reprinted with permission

Facilities

Common Rooms and Activities

Room Activity Room Activity
Aspen Bounce Houses, Play Ground Kids Activities Montreal 2nd-3rd Grade Boys Programs
Boardroom 2nd Grade Girls Magna 8th-9th Grade Girls Programs
Bonaventure 1st and 3rd Grade Girls Program Olympia Center A Dining Hall – Men
Broadmoor A Kindergarten Girls and Boys Programs Olympia Center B Dining Hall – Women
Broadmoor B Pre-K Girls and Boys Program Harley D. Room 6th Grade Boys Programs
Crickets ISOM Programs Frisco Room 7th Grade Boys Programs
Crown Kirgiz Programs, Seminar-5 Room Royal Cellar Game Room
Illinois A Seminar-1 Room Suite 204 4th – 5th Grade Girls Programs 10 roll a ways
Illinois B Seminar-2 Room Suite 208 7th Grade Girls Programs
Illinois C Seminar-3 Room, Prayers (Women without Kids), Suite 212 6th Grade Girls
Milwaukee Ages 2-4 Child Care Westlake (Pillars) Ozbek Programs and Seminar-4 Room
Monaco 1st Grade Boys Programs Wisconsin A Prayer Room (Men without kids)

(Seminar Room – 6)

Monticello 4th-5th Grade Boys Programs Wisconsin B Prayers, Talks (Men with kids) (Seminar Room – 7)
Olympia Center 5 Chair group Group Discussions and  Workshops Wisconsin C Prayers and Talks  (Women with Kids)

T