November 2008 Go to the Laity Lodge website Subscribe to Laity Lodge News

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 Of course you can also get in touch with me ( or Steven (

The Summer Schedule is Coming

The Laity Lodge team is hard at work finishing up the summer schedule. We plan to have it available by the end of the month. Be sure to check the Laity Lodge schedule on our website.

Laity Lodge: Winter-Spring 2009

Jan 8-11: Laity Lodge Men's Retreat
   Speaker: Arthur Paul Boers
   Musicians: Buddy Greene, Jeff Taylor

Jan 16-18: Laity Lodge Retreat
   Speaker: Mark Roberts
   In partnership with: St. Martin's Episcopal       (Houston) and Holy Trinity Episcopal       (Midland)

Jan 19-22: Laity Lodge Women's Retreat
   Speakers: Jeanie Miley; Brené Brown
   Musician: Ashley Cleveland

Jan 30 - Feb 1: Laity Lodge Retreat
   Speaker: Tod Bolsinger
   Musician: Jeff Johnson

Feb 6-8: Retreat for First Pres San Antonio
   Speaker: Jim Singleton
   Musician: Jeff Johnson

Feb 13-15: Laity Lodge Retreat
   Speaker: Rodney Reeves
   In partnership with: Covenant Pres (Austin)

Feb 20-22: Laity Lodge Retreat
   Speaker: Gary Sattler
   In partnership with: Highland Park Pres (Dallas)
      and Christ Episcopal Church (Temple)

Mar 6-8: Laity Lodge Retreat
   Speaker: William Wilson
   In partnership with: Memorial Drive Pres

Mar 13-15: Laity Lodge Retreat
   Speaker: Gordon Fee
   In partnership with: St. John the Divine
      Episcopal (Houston) and Church of the
      Good Shepherd (Corpus Christi)

Mar 20-22: Retreat for First United Methodist
                      Women (Houston)

   Speaker: Rhonda Lowry
   Musician: Letha Crouch

Mar 27-29: Retreat for Randy Smith Class of
                          St. Luke's Methodist (Houston)

   Speaker: Ben Witherington III

Apr 3-5: Laity Lodge Retreat
   Speaker: John York 
   In partnership with: Churches of Christ in Texas

Apr 17-19: Laity Lodge Retreat
   Speaker: Bryan Burton
   In partnership with: Christ Episcopal Church       (San Antonio)

Apr 24-26: Laity Lodge Retreat
   Speaker: Scot McKnight
   In partnership with: St. Matthew's Episcopal       (Austin)

May 1-3: Retreat for Chapelwood United                  Methodist Church (Houston)
   Speaker: Jerry Webber

For more information, please visit the Laity Lodge website. Or, if you prefer, call our Registrar, Ann Jack, at 830-792-1230.

Labor Day 2008:
Michael Card Does Double Duty!

by Mark D. Roberts

As you know, Laity Lodge features some of the finest teachers and musicians in the world. So it's not unusual for a Laity Lodge retreat to include an award-winning author and an award-winning musician. It is different, however, when this author and musician are the same person!

At the 2008 Labor Day retreat, our speaker was award-winning author Michael Card. He has won several book awards, including two Gold Medallion Book Awards from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and a Publishers Weekly Award for Best Religion Book.

Most of you know Michael, however, not from his excellent writing, but from his music. He has won five Gospel Music Association Dove Awards for his outstanding songs, which include "El Shaddai" and "Immanuel." His bestselling music reflects Michael's depth as a poet and theologian, in addition to his distinctive musicality.

Michael teaching in the Great Hall

Michael is an engaging teacher. At Laity Lodge he gave six (!) messages, focusing on slavery in the Bible. His grasp of ancient history and biblical languages is impressive and informed his challenging interpretation of Scripture. Michael's main point is that, by seeing ourselves as slaves of our heavenly Master, we discover a "better freedom."

In fact, Michael has imbedded this truth in a new song he has written. It is called, appropriately enough, "A Better Freedom." This song doesn't appear on any album yet, but you can listen (or download) the song for free at the By/For website. (By/For is one of Michael's projects, in which art and music produced by the church is made available for the church without charge.)

Michael in concert in the Cody Center

As it turns out, Michael is not only a fantastic musician, speaker, and writer. He's also a wonderful person to hang out with. We loved having him at Laity Lodge and are pleased to announce that he'll be back with us next October.

Looking for a Perfect Christmas Present? Give the Gift of a Laity Lodge Retreat

Can't think of what to give your wife for Christmas? Want to do something special for your children this year? We've got an idea . . . a Laity Lodge retreat.

Each year, dozens of folks who love Laity Lodge share the experience by giving a retreat to their children, friends, or neighbors. What better way to encourage those you care about and want to see grow in their faith?

You can give a gift of a specific retreat (for example, the Labor Day Weekend retreat). Or you can give a gift certificate that can be used for a wide variety of Laity Lodge retreats. Simply email or call Ann Jack at 830-792-1230, and she'll help you with the details.

The Laity Lodge Team . . .

Tim Blanks
Director of

Ann Jack
Registrar and
Church Liaison

Steven Purcell

Mark Roberts
Senior Director
and Scholar-in-Residence

Connie Taylor
Administrative Coordinator

Bryan Skeen

 P. O. Box 290670, Kerrville, TX 78029-0670                   Phone: 830-792-1230                      Fax: 830-792-1237