PLANNING A QUIET DAY
As a leader in the church, your fellow parishioners may look to you for spiritual guidance. In additional to traditional Sunday learning opportunities, you may want to plan other venues to help people grow spiritually. Depending on the style and makeup of your parish or other Christian group, you might consider organizing a quiet day, retreat, talk or workshop.
The first thing to remember in anything you lead is that the cross is where it all begins; approach everything you do with this in mind.
Also know that while such an event is good for attendees, it’s also good for you. You grow along with those you lead.
With that in mind, here are some points to consider:
LEAD is thrilled to share this article written by Kathleen Phillips, Director of Formation in Direction (FinD). FinD is a school of Spiritual Direction operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas in Bryan Texas. Learn about this wonderful school.
- Pick something that sparks your interest. Often after you have delved into an area of interest, you will be excited about it and you may want to teach others about it. Is there a prayer tool that has worked well for you? Did you experience a book you read that guided you to a richer spiritual life? Think of those types of personal experiences as possible topics to explore with others.
- Do more research on it. Explore used bookstores and libraries to read what’s currently available on the topic of choice. Search online for good information from reliable sources. Enjoy learning all you can.
- Realize it will be for your continued spiritual growth as well. As you learn more, you will continue to spiral upward spiritually.
- Let creativity flow. You don’t have to pattern your presentation after any you’ve ever seen before. Free yourself to develop a quiet day, retreat or workshop that fits you and your topic.
- Find out who else is teaching and in what format. If someone else is already presenting on your preferred topic, attend their event and determine if there is some other way you can offer your own version of the topic in a way that is unique to you and those to whom you offer it.
- Keep the idea fresh, add and adapt – think of every detail, then present it. Take notes as you offer it each time and adjust as needed to meet the needs of different groups.
- It’s ok that you’re not yet the world authority. If you have studied and researched and still are excited about the topic, you will present a wonderful event for others. However, it’s possible – even likely – that someone at your event may know more. That’s ok. Allow some input from that person and acknowledge to the group that you are a seeker who is still learning.
- Retreat – This is a multi-day event. Get help and assign responsibilities. If you are presenting, you don’t need to be responsible for meals or music, for example. Also remember that you don’t have to pack every minute with something to do as if it were a business meeting. God’s business needs times for personal reflection.
- Quiet Day – This will be a one day event. But what is a day? Determine with your host whether a day means 2, 4, 6, 8 hours or some other amount of time.
- Workshop – This would be less on quiet and reflection and more on having a group or individual activity, and is generally thought of by people as shorter than a quiet day. People who come to a workshop expect to “work.”
- Talk – This is much shorter than a workshop and mostly instructional. It could be Sunday school, at a church women’s group, men’s breakfast, Advent or Lenten supper, for example.
- Consider how your topic might adapt to any of these – When you come up with an idea, think in terms of many formats. Plan to offer it as a retreat, a quiet day, a workshop or a talk, depending on what you are called to do.
- Indoors/outdoors/both – Consider who are likely to come to your event. Some will want to stay indoors the entire time. And, it could rain. You have to have plan B and sometimes C.
- Your own home – While this is normally not recommended for these events, it may be that a group of your own friends would be comfortable exploring a spiritual topic in your home whereas they would not be likely to attend at a church. That’s completely fine!
- Is your host promoting it? – If you are an invited presenter, find out if your host is promoting it.
- Are you doing it? If your host isn’t promoting it, ask if it is ok for you to promote it. Ask, because perhaps they want it for a particular group for some reason and don’t want the world to show up. Then, if they agree, consider newspaper religion pages, pew sheets, and/or email churches in the area where you will be.
- Flyers – Make a generic flyer that you can use each time you present your topic. If you have a generic flyer on your computer, you can adapt it according to what format you are presenting. Then, simply add the date, and print on demand.
- Materials for the event – When you have handouts, include your contact information. That is how someone who attends will find you. Also consider whether your participants will need notebooks, folders, pens, etc.
- Don’t forget word of mouth – People who come will mention your topic in other settings. Their recommendations will lead to others contacting you for your presentation.
- Not a self promoter? Friends and spouses to the rescue. Get others to help you promote the topic.
- Tweak as you go – Be adaptable, even if it means deciding to alter the activity in a presentation at the last minute. If you know your topic well enough, this will not be a problem in a bind.
- Observe participation – but judge it for the audience. Who asked the questions? Are they all dazed? Adapt for age and ability. Offer to help or pair people up.
- Listen to comments/questions during and after event – is there other information you can add/subtract…do their stories give you examples to share next time? You don’t want something to come in the way of another’s spiritual experience.
- What sorts of things would make you present better – Be at your best. Perhaps the event is in another town. What must you do to be well rested and not rushed when you arrive?
- Can a friend/companion come as a constructive critic? A good, loving friend can give you great feedback. Perhaps give the presentation to the friend to see if anything needs to be tweaked before you present to others.
- A questionnaire – If you hand one out, keep it simple. Ask questions that will help you learn how to do it even better next time. But it’s not necessary to hand one out. Often people who come to a prayer day or retreat are in a good place as it ends and don’t want to take time to analyze the experience for you.
- Thoroughly review before you give it again – and when you do, think of the next audience. Make notes as you go through the presentation, jot down the questions that were asked. If you don=t, you won=t remember when it=s time to tweak.
Above all, go back to the beginning and remember that we do all of this because of The Cross. It is not something to glorify ourselves. It is for Jesus.