Whitefield Academy Blog
Retreats: How Leaving School Promotes Unity
Each year, the Whitefield upper school community sets aside four days for retreats, two days in the fall and two days in the winter. These retreats are formational and transformational for students and staff alike. This year’s fall retreat was no different.
The cornerstone of all of our retreats is worship and prayer. Student-lead worship brings students in grades seven to twelve together in a profound way. What begins as students praising the Lord individually quickly morphs into students linked as a chain, swaying in praise. The community of students lift their voices as a unit, welcoming Jesus in to our midst.
We have been blessed at Whitefield to hear from dynamic and gifted speakers. Over the years we have heard from pastors, teachers, and others called into various ministries. This fall we welcomed Pastor Drew Smith, a pastor at a local church and a parent of three Whitefield students. He lead the students to think about some big questions: “Where have you seen Jesus?” “What is the Life?” “What is the Truth?” He encouraged our students to love each other well and call out when they see Jesus. This was modeled beautifully at the beginning of retreat when he gave opportunities for the students and staff to bless our leadership, for the leadership to bless the staff, and for the staff to bless the students. The Holy Spirit moved when the students heard how much their teachers and school leadership love them. Giving space to see Jesus throughout the retreat allowed for a connection among students which lead to a feeling of safety. Students shared lessons Jesus was teaching them, fears being confronted, and of relationships growing.
Retreats are also a lot of fun! At Whitefield our students are sorted into houses: Dante, Homer, Milton, and Virgil. Retreats offer an opportunity for senior-lead house games and some friendly competition. There’s something for everyone. Whether a student wants to compete in a card game, ultimate Frisbee, or 9 Square (a Whitefield favorite), all of our students are engaged and participating with other students in grades 7-12. It’s not unusual to see a group of students in their house color (green, blue, purple, or red) go speeding by with war paint on, heading to take on their next challenge. In addition to structured time, we also allow some space for free time. Students may play a pick-up game of volleyball, soccer, or Dutch Blitz, or maybe sing karaoke, play the piano, or take a hike around the grounds. This free time allows for friendships to grow.
One of the neatest things about our retreats is that the momentum toward faith and friendship kindled at the few days away from the classroom overflows positively into the classroom. As a teacher, I look forward to seeing how God moves in the days and weeks to come.