Cleaver and Conundrums – Part 1 of 3

        Why I Don’t Do Women’s Retreats



‘Tis the season for planning next year’s women’s retreat.  These annual events are staples on many calendars.  Not mine.  Here are some reasons why:


 n       In my experience, women’s retreats (as well as most “women’s ministry”) usually serve up the Christian version of lite root beer: half the calories with half the taste.  They invariably focus on that infamous, overworked icon, The Proverbs 31 Woman or its kissing cousin, Created to be His Helpmeet.  The result is a bland, flavorless brew seasoned with too little (or sloppy) theology, bare-bones Bible, and a douse of June Cleaver that could choke a mule. 

n      The average women’s retreat doesn’t engage my mind, which gravitates more toward academic and scholarly pursuits.  (Granted, these aren’t everyone’s cup of sunshine, but a few occasional rays would take the chill off.)  I’ve been told that I think more like a man than a woman.  I haven’t yet decided whether that’s a compliment or something else.  Whatever it is, it rarely puts in an appearance at the retreats I’ve attended. 

n      An over-emphasis on emotions.  There’s nothing wrong with emotions, but my emotions aren’t the sum total of who I am in Christ.  I crave exegetical accuracy, depth and relevance, careful research, scholarship, razor-sharp hermeneutics and the application of critical thinking and analytical skills in theology, history, science, literature, fine arts, economics, social science, and philosophy.  Frankly, most women’s retreats appeal to me about as much as watching paint peel.  (Is there a place for those elephantine doses of emotional, crying jag, touchy-feely, Kleenex-clutching retreat sessions?  I suppose.  I just don’t see why we should begin and end there – or why they’re sometimes deemed the sole point of connection between women.) 

n       Weekend themes of “getting them grounded in the Word” and “growing in Jesus” and such.  Implicit in this assumption is the presumption that “women of the Word” is the exclusive territory of the retreat planners who will now teach the rest of us what we’re missing. 

n      Retreats billed as “ya’ll come” that focus on young married women with kids.  I’m within spitting distance of age 50 but I also have an eight-year old.  The conundrum: I’m apparently too long in the tooth to qualify as a “young married,” but haven’t sprouted enough gray hair to qualify as a Titus 2 “older woman.”  Betwixt and between.  Retreats don’t seem to know what to do with women like me. 

 n      I understand the need to make the best use of limited time, but I find the jam-packed, frenetic pace of many retreats to be overwhelming and exhausting.  As an introvert, I need time to decompress and process between sessions.  I also don’t see the point in departing a “retreat” feeling more fatigued and depleted than I did when I arrived!

 n      The atmosphere at some of these shindigs – intentionally or otherwise – is a Xerox copy of a weekend-long Tupperware party.  Nothing against Tupperware per se, but frankly, I have better things to do with my time.  I also don’t want to get stuck in a cabin (again) with a bunch of slumber party retros who want to stay up all night and giggle.  When I turn in for the night I want to turn in for the night, not regress back to junior high.  (Boil and bubble, toil and trouble, grump, grump, grump!) 



Continued in Parts 2 and 3.


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