Creative Retreat Ideas
Sue Pickering, Canterbury Press, 2010

£22.99 (Approx)
Get the resource >


What does it say on the tin?

Resources for Short, Day and weekend retreats with CD ROM.

There is a great need today for opportunities for soul-weary people to respond to Jesus’ invitation to ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile’ (Mark 6.31). This book is about helping you and others to rest and grow in God.

Creative Retreat Ideas offers an imaginative mixture of ready made and build-your-own programme ideas for short and longer spiritual breaks, from half-hour ‘tasters’ for those busy with work or family responsibilities, to whole day and full weekend retreats.

What do you get?

Part 1 introduces the process of facilitating retreats of varying lengths. Part 2 introduces twenty practices for spiritual formation form the contemplative stream of Christian spirituality. Complete with resource sheets, these form basic retreat building blocks that can be used in a variety of ways to suit your context. Parts 3, 4 and 5 explore different ways of using these resources in a range of group retreat settings. For example:

Part 1 Getting started – a pattern for retreats, short or long
1.1 Preparing, organizing and resourcing
1.2 Gathering
1.3 Offering input
1.4 Moving into silence …
1.10 Reviewing and debriefing for leaders

Part 2 Loaves and fishes – spiritual formation resource sheets
2.1 Attitudes and expectations – waking up to God
2.2 Being honest with God and with yourself
2.3 Beginnings – breath prayer …
2.20 Using everyday symbols to aid spiritual growth

Part 3 Snacks – short retreat opportunities for the body, mind and spirit
3.1 God is both present and gift
3.2 Breathing with the Spirit
3.3 How’s the day been – really? …
3.10 A half-day hike for the fit and faithful OR a stroll around city streets for the slow and sleepy

Part 4 light meals – full Quiet Days
4.1 Hope and the Christian journey – emerging from the doldrums of our lives
4.2 May I have this dance? – the invitation to intimacy
4.3 Bodies and blessings – the Word became flesh …
4.5 Mud and mystery

Part 5 Dinner – overnight or weekend retreats
5.1 Unfolding – overnight retreat
5.2 Four seasons in one life – weekend retreat
5.3 Do not be afraid – weekend retreat

Appendices including sample programmes. CD ROM has full text of the book available for printing, plus handouts, photos, prayers and further resources.

Also available by the same author is Creative Ideas for Quiet Days, also with CD ROM, along the same lines, and with more material for quiet days specifically.

Other titles available in this series include:

  • Creative Ideas for Alternative Sacramental Worship
  • Creative Ideas for Whole Church Family Worship
  • Creative Ideas for Using Scripture in Worship
  • Creative Ideas for Wild Church
  • Creative Ideas for Frontline Evangelism with Young People
  • Seeing our faith: Creative Ideas for working with images of Christ (reviewed on this site)


  • What is the overall quality of material presentation?

    Attractive books with everything provided for creative, inspirational and varied ideas for time out with God. A treasure trove.

    How clear are its aims and outcomes?

    Clear layout and theme for each suggestion. Expectations helpfully spelled out in introductory material

    How accessible are the leader's notes?

    Great introductions in both books to realistic expectations for quiet times together. Good guidance for how to make events work well. Very clear layout for all sections, so easy to use. ‘Materials needed' list included. All material downloadable and printable from CD or CD links. Choice of illustrative stories and input provided. Events tend to include: opening worship (liturgy and candle-lighting); short talk plus reflection time with reflections sheets; short talk 2 plus reflection again; guided meditation (optional); closing prayer. Some activities included – of these, some are individually based, and some to be done together. Lots of strong ideas for different approaches to prayer and engagement with God.

    Who could lead it?

    Someone who believes in the value of a more contemplative approach and who is prepared to help others learn to do the same. A leader may also need to be prepared to respond helpfully to any who find that difficult issues surface during the time.

    How helpful are the participants' resources?

    Reflection sheets would be good to take home and look at again. Ideas for engaging with God in different ways would be stimulating too.

    How good is any digital material?

    Photos are helpful and good.

    How much prep will I have to do?

    The ready-made material is fairly straight-forward; but the extra ideas on the CD and in the book might well pull you in to more prep! Materials do need to be gathered, and the event organised and advertised in advance, if it is for a wider audience than small group.

    Is there website support? Links?


  • How well does it encourage interaction with the group?

    A mixture here – these are designed to be done together, but there is a balance between personal reflection, opportunities to share if wanted, and joint activities.

    How well does it cater for a variety of both learning and delivery styles?

    Given that most of this is based on a more thoughtful style, there is a good variety including visual, aural and active elements. Lots of creativity – and fun – for those who want it. Imagination is encouraged in a careful way.

    How adaptable is it to my situation?

    Again, given that this is based in the contemplative tradition, there is a range of options that would suit many people. Balance of input (of which there is quite a bit), response, activity and reflection time is good. Timings suggested. Pickering is careful to advise on the limitation for some of the material for those with mental health challenges.

    How well does it encourage people to work together in applying the material?

    Some activities are done together; there are opportunities for sharing responses.

  • How much of the material is Bible-based?

    Every suggestion is based on a Bible passage. Some ideas include more than one reference to a biblical story or passage.

    How well is the biblical material presented and used?

    The focus is on learning from the passage, from the point of view of the theme; or letting the biblical material speak to the individual in a new way. Careful attention to the contents of the chosen passage is given.

    How well does it apply biblical material to everyday life?

    Very well, and encourages deeper ways of relating to the material, in order to engage with God more. Good recognition of our common humanity and need for the Holy Spirit to guide our relationship with God.

    Is there a particular theological perspective?

    Firm expectation that God will meet with participants if we give him half a chance.

  • How well does it inspire people towards whole-life discipleship?

    Different ideas have different emphases, and the range of material for different events means that there is a focus for each time. But all are carefully structured to give participants the opportunity to grow in one way or another.

    How well does it encourage and enable people to grow in their faith?

    Lots of encouragement to try new things, and spend time positively engaging with God. All material based on the deep conviction that God will meet with each individual in an appropriate way.

    How well does it stretch faith and vision of God and his purposes?

    Brilliant range of suggestions for innovative ways of connecting with God, some very traditional and explained (eg Augustinian prayer), and some new, especially in the spiritual formation section. Realistic expectations of how we grow in God.

    How well does it connect with real life issues?

    The author clearly has a faith that is deep, wide and realistic, and this shows in her material. She acknowledges the challenges and ordinariness of life, and invites us to bring them all to God. Some activities would connect deeply with this.

  • How well does it encourage personal evangelism?

    Not a focus, but much of the material would suit beginning Christians or enquiring.

    How well does it encourage local or network-based community involvement?

    Some of the material is connected well to this, both prayerfully, in awareness, and in space for ideas.

    How well does it connect with global issues?

    There are sections on care of creation, and learning how to make a difference.

    How well does it encourage global mission?

    Not a focus.

Join the discussion