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The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
July 18, 2011
How to Plan a Retreat of Silence
One of my favorite things to do during the summer, besides lie by the pool, is to go on a Retreat of Silence (ROS). Before all of the extroverts quit reading because I used the words “retreat” and “silence,” relax and keep reading because I, myself, am an extrovert. In extrovert language, I prefer to call it “Spending the Day with God,” but InterVarsity refers to it as an ROS. It’s an extremely helpful way to reflect on the year and see how God has been present and what things he has taught you.
I call mine “Spending the Day with God” because I’m not always silent during mine. And you don’t have to be either. The point of an ROS is to set aside an extended period of time to engage with God and rest in him. It does not mean that you have to check yourself into a monastery and take a vow of silence all day (although you can if you’d like and I bet that’d be fabulous). But it is an experience that you plan in order to intentionally connect with God in a more intimate and private way than you normally might.
Here are 3 tips for planning a great ROS:
- Set aside time. It doesn’t have to be a whole day. When I do an ROS, I plan for 3 to 6 hours. If this is your first time doing an ROS, start with 2 to 3 hours.
- Figure out what the best atmosphere is for you to connect with God. When I do an ROS, I like to start the morning by going to my favorite coffee shop. I eat breakfast, sip some delicious coffee and journal about any thoughts, concerns, anticipations, etc., that could distract from my experience with God. I tell those things to God, set them aside, and ask him to help me to focus on him and what he wants to teach me.
- Choose activities that help you connect with God. After breakfast, if the weather is good, I head to my favorite park and grab a spot in the shade. Sometimes I like to read a Christian book; other times I like to create something artistic with chalk pastels. I also like to engage with the Bible during that time. I read a story from one of the gospels and meditate on that. Sometimes I go for a long hike, praying and worshipping God through nature. If you don’t naturally connect to God with nature, you can head to a public library or a favorite spot in your city. The point is to put yourself in places that help you connect with God and hear from him.
Here are some journaling questions to start off your ROS.
- What has this summer been like for you so far?
- What has been good? Bad?
- How has it been for you spiritually?
- How do you feel about where you are spiritually right now?
- In what ways have you experienced God lately?
- What areas in your life is God working on? What has he been teaching you lately?
If you would like something more guided with Scripture to study and questions to respond to, check out the following resources:
Use the ROS guide, which you can download at the Resources section on my website.
Sign up for Greek InterVarsity’s Summer Devotional Guide: 10 weeks of Bible study sent to your email each week.
What helpful tips or resources do you have for planning an ROS? Leave a comment below about an experience you’ve had on a ROS. What things did you do? Where did you go? How did God meet you? At the end of the week, we’ll randomly select a commenter to receive a FREE copy of Contemplative Vision by Juliet Benner from InterVarsity Press. So include your name and on Monday check back here or on Facebook for the winner!
Alison Smith is on staff with Greek InterVarsity at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and is a member of Pi Beta Phi for women. She loves reading, singing, rocking out in her car to cheesy pop music and NPR, and going on adventures with her husband.