The conference is over, you have checked out of your hotel, and it is now time to head back home. For the past several days you have had the amazing opportunity to be free from leadership responsibilities, drama, and obligations. You have been able to wonder around as you please, sleep in, visit with friends, and stay up too late. You have been encouraged and sharpened spiritually and vocationally. And it is now time to wrap it up and reengage life, real life, the life to which you were really called to live. If we are not careful, it is easy to come in at the wrong angle and disintegrate as we reenter. It takes intentional effort to maximize all that God has done in you this week and to make sure the seed lands in fertile soil. Here are 10 simple ways to survive reentry:
1) Remember, this was just a break, not real life: Whenever we have some sort of spiritual high, the knee-jerk reaction is to build a tabernacle and want to say there a while longer. The picture we get again and again in scripture is that we get moments of clarity on the mountain, but our call is in the valley. Our homes and churches are the place we are called. This time away is not our real life, it is simply a break. It is time to get back to it.
2) The grass is not greener somewhere else: It seems like every speaker and every new friend you make comes from a context where ministry is amazing and God is alive and at work. We all put our best foot forward. It usually isn't until a few months after we get married that we let it all hang out. Until that point we all share the best of our context. If you really thought about it, you could tell some story about how God is moving in your context that would blow someone away. Every context has great stories of God's goodness, and every context has difficult bosses, fickle students, and limited budgets. No matter where you go, you are still there. Ask God to continue to refine you, so you can be all he desires in your context.
3) Brainstorm a list of where God is already at work in your context: If we don't intentionally reflect on this, we easily forget all the ways God has been faithful and become bitter because our context isn't as great as all the people's at the conference. A long list of places God has shown up will go a long way to soothe a bitter heart. I bet you will be surprised and encouraged.
4) Don't verbally process with your supervisor: I am sure you had several epiphany regarding the programming and philosophy of your context. It never goes well when you come back guns blazing and tear apart all the work and ideas your supervisor has been pouring their life into for the past few years. What you were given at the conference was an idealized, best case scenario. Be inspired and work it out, even come up with a plan. But don't verbally process with your supervisor. This ends up being hurtful and divisive.
5) Try and implement one new idea: There were so many great ideas that you had at the conference. However, because you have so many, most of them fade away and never get implemented or even thought about. Instead of storing up a million ideas for when things get perfect, pick one or two of them that are ready to go within your current model and context and do it. The minor tweaks and improvements will be well received and the small wins build confidence and good will toward the larger ideas that you desire to implement down the road.
6) Take 3 hours this week and sort through all you learned: There were more than just little fixes you thought about and wrestled through while you were away. In just a matter of days all of this will become a fleeting memory. To take full advantage of all that was revealed to you on the mountain, make sure you take some significant time this week to reflect on and wrestle with all that you learned. If you have some big moves to make, this is the time to come up with a plan to implement it. If you are not intentional, your week will get away from you, and the next week, and soon an entire year will go by with you never even dreaming about where you could go, let alone developing a plan, let alone put one into play.
7) Don't make any sudden movements: Often after a retreat it feels like God has something new for you personally or for the church. It is now clear that you should leave your job, or implement a brand new ministry philosophy. That is great. While it may be true and it may even be God's will, do not do it suddenly. Churches are made up of people and people don't like change. We need to be eased into it. So don't be hasty. God's will will be the same in a month or two. If you have dramatic changes afoot, be slow and steady.
8: Be a good listener to your friends and family: While you have been away learning, growing, and being encouraged, there have been people in your life back home that have been living their own lives full of joys and sorrow. Before you open up the fire hose on them, close your mouth and listen to them, to their stories, to all that has been going on while you were gone. This group of people are the core of your real life, therefore we should treat them as such and honor and value the real lives they have been living in our absence.
9) Take a nap this week in your office or car: I don't know about you, but after a retreat, I am exhausted. I know I didn't do any real work, but for whatever reason all the conversations, sessions, seminars, late nights and early mornings wear me down. I have found that my life back home has zero empathy for needing rest after a convention. So, zip your lip about being tired. Get your work and family obligations done, then take a nap in your office. Or pull into a parking lot and take a nap. You need the rest, but it is better that it is done in secret. :)
10) Thank your staff and volunteers who have held down the fort: Most of us had program happen while we were away. This did not happen on its own. We have great staff, paid and volunteer how stepped up in huge ways this week to give us space to be at a conference. We can not take that for granted. Make sure you pick up some gift cards, buy some pedicures, and say thank you to the people who went above and beyond for our benefit.
I hope you had a great time at your conference and that God did show up in a new and fresh way. I pray that you would be encouraged and empowered by your time on the mountain, and as you begin to reengage, you would bring back a heart overflowing with grace and mercy. Let us die to the bitterness and angst at the disappointments of how things are back home. Instead, may we return home with fresh eyes that are full of life and hope. May your plans be his plans, and may all of this be for the glory of God.