Contributed by Wendy Fiala, 24+ Connect Coordinator
The second BFM-sponsored 24+ Connect Retreat was held Labor Day weekend in the beautiful background of Sonoma County, California. This year, seventy single 24-39 year-old participants from over 25 states and four countries flew, drove and carpooled to a campsite up in Occidental, CA for four days of connecting, reflecting, and relaxing. This year’s retreat theme was “Here to There,” and participants were encouraged and supported to reflect on where they were currently regarding their relationship goals, and the blocks and action steps they might start facing/taking to start reaching their goals.
As the main facilitator, David Young, Unification Church Columbus Pastor and professional Life Coach, lead participants through activities and sessions on reimaging their future relationships and reflecting on the types of qualities they would want and any ways to change their current behaviors to start attracting their goals. Most of this was done through group reflection and pair sharing with new partners every so often.
Bay Area Family Church Pastor, Kevin Thompson, returned this year, offering a presentation on Conscious Dating, or intentionally and strategically finding a life-partner, in addition to individual counseling for any/all participants. Matching Resources and testimonies with Q &A were shared, including a letter from a previous 24+ Connect participant, and two staff testimonies from Yuka Sato, also a previous participant, and Wendy Fiala. An addition from last year’s retreat included “speed-sharing” sessions where participants could briefly interact with the majority of attendees one-on-one. Participants were encouraged to continue conversations started with persons of interest, with the tone and setting that it’s okay to be upfront and assertive about what you’re looking for in a partner. For some participants, this portion of the program was exhausting, but many expressed gratitude for the (sometimes awkward) opportunity to meet everyone.
Camp and outing activities organized by Sarah Lapres, included ziplining and high ropes on-site, visiting the California Northern Coast, and a team scavenger hunt in the nearby foodie town of Sebastopol. Many participants shared their highlights from the weekend came from visiting the rocky beaches and having time to wander and explore the local farms and vineyards of Sonoma together.
Overall, after the retreat 85% of participants reported feeling more clear about where they stand with their current relationship goals, and 90% felt ready to take action steps towards creating their ideal future. For the future, participants would recommend this program to:
Anyone who is at any stage in their life. No one is judged for their current situations or choices so it’s really a safe place to feel accepted and still learn and grow as a person.
Anyone who can still appreciate the value of community, friends, family, even people who don’t affiliate themselves with the church. Good semi-neutral environment.
For reconnection and discovering others that are in a similar place in life. Program is good for not just the serious looking. Inspiring to meet and reestablish supportive BCS.
People who know what they want and want help in facilitation/meeting new people.
The program is great for anyone struggling with where their matching process is taking them.
Our team of staff thank all of this year’s participants for an amazing experience, and for really investing so much time and energy during our weekend together. We look forward to our next 24+ Connect Retreat and to implementing feedback and new ideas to bring it to the next level.
Many thanks to the entire team of staff not already mentioned, (David Lapres, Crescentia DeGoede, Marjorie Beussing, Lee Hee Wolf, Sean Kim, Kayeon Amaral, Miilhan Stephens, and Esther Flores) for all of your contributions towards making this retreat great!