New Opportunities for You at Laity Lodge
by Mark D. Roberts
There are many new opportunities for you to come to a retreat at Laity Lodge. More easily than ever before, you can join a retreat, either as an individual, as a member of a small group, or with a bunch of your friends. In fact, more than three-quarters of all Laity Lodge retreats are now “open” to you. Before I explain the details of this exciting development, I want to say a few words about how we got here.
Several characteristics of Laity Lodge make it unique as a Christian retreat center, besides its extraordinary location on the Frio River and its pervasive ethos of hospitality. For one thing, Laity Lodge’s small size (about 60 adults) offers intimacy and opportunity. Where else can you sit down for a meal with one of the best speakers you’ve ever heard or with a world-class musician or artist? Second, Laity Lodge has distinguished itself by building strong partnerships with churches in the effort to encourage lay people to live as ministers of Christ.
As a result of these two characteristics, the majority of retreats at Laity Lodge have been dedicated to groups from churches who share our vision of renewal through the laity. For years, if you wanted to attend a retreat at Laity Lodge, either you came on the weekend reserved by your church or you joined one of the Laity Lodge open retreats, most of which were in the summer. The majority of school-year retreats seemed to be off limits. (In fact, individuals were welcome to register for most church retreats, but rarely did so.)
In years past, if you happened to see in Connections that one of your favorite speakers, Dale Bruner, for example, was coming to Laity Lodge in February, you’d assume that you couldn’t hear Dale unless you were a member of the church that was lucky enough to have him at its retreat. Moreover, lots of smaller churches or small groups within larger churches figured they couldn’t have a retreat at Laity Lodge because they weren’t big enough to reserve the whole facility. Thus, lots of folks who wanted to come to Laity Lodge during the school year didn’t do so.
Meanwhile, many of our faithful church groups, some of which have been coming to Laity Lodge for more than forty years, were finding it hard to fill their retreats. Potential retreat goers told their leaders that their lives were too busy with activities to get away for a weekend. Some couldn’t miss their children’s soccer or football games. Others had to work on Saturdays. Others had church commitments on Sundays. And so on and so on.
Thus, when Steven Purcell and I began as directors of Laity Lodge, we noticed that many of our church retreats didn’t fill the Lodge. It was common for there to be twenty or more unused spaces on a weekend. We were concerned that the remarkable resources of Laity Lodge were not being used to maximum advantage. And, quite frankly, smaller retreats were making it hard for us to be faithful stewards of the financial resources entrusted to us. So we put on our thinking caps. We talked, prayed, brainstormed with our Laity Lodge team, and consulted our Foundation leaders.
The result is a modest change in our approach to church retreats. From now on, no longer will a church group need to reserve all of Laity Lodge to secure a weekend on our calendar. Rather, any church or group can contract to bring a certain number of people on a given weekend. If they agree to bring sixty people, they will “take the whole retreat.” But if they can only bring thirty, for example, that's fine. We at Laity Lodge will work to fill the retreat with another group or collection of individuals (or both).
We started implementing this new policy with our church groups a few months ago. It will be fully operational in January 2009. Church groups have been most cooperative in committing to specific numbers of spots in a weekend and in their willingness to share Laity Lodge when they can’t fill a whole retreat. New groups are showing interest in coming to Laity Lodge when they realize that they don’t have to bring sixty people to secure space at a retreat.
All of this is encouraging to us. But it also opens up new opportunities for you, as I said earlier. For the first time in many years, the vast majority of Laity Lodge retreats are open for individual and/or small-group participation. This means you can join most Laity Lodge retreats, whether or not your church happens to be coming on a particular weekend. If you see a speaker you’d like to hear or if you have a free weekend during the school year, you can come to Laity Lodge. You don’t have to wait until summer.
If you look at the Laity Lodge schedule in Connections or at our website, you’ll see three different types of retreats:
1. Laity Lodge Retreat - This is an open retreat, and you’re welcome to register until the retreat is full. Then you can add your name to the wait list, if you wish. Many of our Laity Lodge retreats are in partnership with specific churches who have reserved some but not all of the retreat spaces. The names of these churches are noted in the schedule, so you can easily find your church retreat.
2. Retreat for [Church Group] - This whole retreat has been reserved by a certain church. However, in most cases, you can still join the retreat by registering through the church. Email us for details.
3. Retreat for [Members Only Group] - These are private retreats that don’t accept outside registrations. They’re listed on the schedule to help members find their group’s retreat.
Laity Lodge has never been more available for individuals. But there is also an unprecedented opportunity for smaller groups and smaller churches to join a Laity Lodge retreat. What better way for your covenant group to grow in depth of relationship than at Laity Lodge! What a great opportunity for people in your weekly Bible study to get to know each other better as they learn from a top-notch teacher at a Laity Lodge weekend!
In conclusion, I hope you’ll consider joining us at Laity Lodge, not just in the summer or when your church has a retreat, but also throughout the year. Be sure to examine our schedule on a regular basis. We’ll keep you updated through this newsletter and through Connections.
If you have any questions about our new approach to church retreats, or if you’d like to secure space for yourself or your group, please contact our Church Liaison, Ann Jack (830-792-1207 or AnnJack@laitylodge.org). Of course you can also get in touch with me (email@example.com) or Steven (firstname.lastname@example.org.)