There is a difference between retreat and isolation. One is good for a man’s soul and the other is not so good.
Another important foundation for my God Buddy concept was when I realized that men need to get-away and retreat with other men. Now, I don’t mean retreat as in a military sense but I mean they need a change of pace, relaxation kind of way to recharge their batteries.
A quick Google search will present you with a vast array of wellness retreats, yoga retreats, and detox retreats that are mainly targeted to women. For men though, the options are significantly less, which presumes that women need to retreat more than their male counterparts.
But I would suggest the opposite is true.
Why is it essential that every man needs some time away either in solitude or for adventure and to hang out with other like-minded guys?
First, here are some definitions:
Retreat: (Noun) a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy. (Verb) To withdraw, retire, or draw back, especially for shelter or seclusion.
Get-Away: an act or instance of getting away:; a place suitable for a vacation, especially of brief duration.
Isolation: (Noun) the action of isolating; the condition of being isolated.—Adapted from Merriam Webster’s Dictionary
Now, back to why men need get-aways and retreats.
Men Need to Get-Away
Over the past decade, stress, depression, anxiety, and suicide levels have risen in the male population all around the world. In fact, I wrote in Loneliness: a Huge Threat to our Health that men are more susceptible to depression and anxiety from stress than women and are more likely to isolate themselves rather than seek help. Also, deaths from suicide occur among males three times greater than in females.
That’s some pretty scary statistics.
Men are also far more likely to deal with issues on their own due to the pressure of society and the media which tells us to just “man up” whenever we are faced with a challenging situation. To cope, men often gloss over the more serious issues in their lives and turn to drugs, alcohol or sex to avoid what’s really going on inside.
As I wrote in Finding Your First God Buddy, guys typically find commonality first to develop friendships. I believe there is no better way to get to know another guy than to spend time in a car-ride up to a retreat, hiking together in the woods, or just sitting near a campfire getting to know each other.
My First Men’s Retreat
I began to understand the importance of retreats after attending my first Spring Get-Away Weekend with some guys at our church. Soon after I joined the men’s group, I was invited to join them for their annual long weekend in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
The tradition of this men’s weekend began several years earlier when one guy at our church invited a few others to go up to his cabin the weekend before Memorial Day to help him put the boat dock for the opening of the summer season (its in northern Wisconsin so sometimes the ice is barely off the lake by then!).
The weekend has slowly expanded to where there are often 20+ guys ranging from their early 20s to older than 60 who go up for a 3-days of fishing, golfing, eating well, and enjoying some adult beverages.
Sometimes, there are deep conversations but it’s mainly just guys hanging out with other guys, sitting in a boat or walking a golf course enjoying each other’s company. Several guys even attend other churches.
Today, a core group of God Buddies has developed our own traditions of making it a 4-day get-away and enjoying lunch at our favorite good old-fashioned German restaurant, Otto’s in Minocqua, Wisconsin.
The annual get-away is something I personally look forward to every spring.
Fall Study Retreat
A few years after taking on the leadership of our Saturday AM Bible Study group, I felt we needed more than the Spring Get-Away so I crafted a weekend fall study retreat based on The Quest for Authentic Manhood (that I wrote about here).
This began a new pattern of a weekend away each fall to study topics as Every Man’s Battle with Sexual Temptation by Kenny Luck, Every Man’s Marriage (also by Kenny Luck) and other home-grown topics like A Man’s Guide to Friendships (which began to formalize my thought-process for God Buddies), Life@Work (about work-life balance), and the “Un” Retreat (where we learned how “unChristian” we Christians can often be).
We started going to a Presbyterian Camp right in Saugatuck, Michigan where my original God Buddy, Bill Johnson ran a youth camp each summer during his second career (read Bill’s guest post, My GB Relationship).
One of my favorite things to do was to sit out on the dock during our study fall retreats talking about life with my GB and fishing buddy, Terry.
Boy Scout Camping Weekends
Another type of get-away mas multi-generational. One of my GBs, Tim was also an assistant Scoutmaster for the Boy Scout Troop hosted at our church. We were both scouts in our youth and had sons in the troop so it gave us the opportunity to relive our scouting days while helping the boys learn about the outdoors and adventure.
Tim & I often tented together and formed a great bond and had the pleasure of going to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico with our sons for the 10-day, 80+ mile adventure, which is the pinnacle for most scouting careers and one of my favorite adventures ever!
During our time as scoutmasters, we came to an important discovery: Men learn best from other men.
We saw that in their early teenage years, most boys start looking to other adults to triangulate what their dad or mom was (or was not), presumably for their “I’m sure glad my dad/mom is not Mr./Mrs. Jones” or the “Man, I wish my dad was more like Johnny’s dad” moment they need to identify manly virtues they aspire to during their formative years.
Silence and Solitude
Some men prefer time for personal reflection. While I personally do not require quiet time often, every man should take time away occasionally to sit in stillness and enjoy the moment.
A quiet place in the woods or alone on a dock allows you to think deeply about your life and evaluate your future plans. Time away refreshes a man’s soul and helps reduce the stress that builds up from trying to balance his responsibilities of family and work.
Important Disclaimer for Wives: In most cases when a man withdraws, it’s not always about disconnecting with his wife or family. Most guys need a periodic break just to recharge their batteries or think (just like you do!) Please encourage your man to get-away for a retreat with other guys who live to a standard you want for him. He will be a better man for it!
The Great Banquet
Another type of retreat for me is called The Great Banquet (also known as Cursillo, Road to Emmaus, and Tres Dias).
The 72-hour weekend experience examines Christianity as a lifestyle to help you strengthen and renew your faith. Guests hear fifteen talks on the theme of God’s grace and love. There are separate weekends for men and women and its a beautiful thing when men become open about their issues
I’m a big fan of The Great Banquet since it helped elevate my understanding of grace and forgiveness to a new level while helping me re-prioritize my life around being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
God Buddies Need “Guy Time”
There is something very powerful for a man’s growth when he gets away for adventure or finds solitude and learning at retreats. All men need time to recharge and often accomplish that in fun and adventure we can be boys again. Yes, I wrote it… BE BOYS! I don’t mean acting like “toxic” men who are still boys at heart (as I wrote in The Four Faces of a Godly Man) but by reliving the fun times of their youth. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with some foolish banter, laughing, horsing around, and just being a guy.
God Buddies use get-aways and retreats to meet other guys and encourage each other to rekindle the fun in their lives. We also use the time to study together and teach each other how to be godly men.
How do you recharge your batteries?
Is it important to have some God Buddies with you?