The scenery and clean air of the Blue Ridge Mountains does more than clear the head. For Phil Wiggins, his annual personal retreat to LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center refocuses his attention on God and renews his passion for the ministry.
For the past four years, Wiggins, a retired police officer and minister to senior adults at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, has taken advantage of the special $29 "Ministers' Getaway" rate at Ridgecrest, located outside Asheville, North Carolina.
"It's a time of opening up and allowing God to give me direction," Wiggins said. "The personal retreat time I spend at Ridgecrest helps me clear my head of the things that shouldn't be there. It's a quiet time to seek God's guidance for my life and ministry."
LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention owns and operates Ridgecrest and LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center, set in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe, New Mexico. While thousands annually attend conferences and camps at the centers, the Ministers' Getaway benefit focuses on the individual.
Ministers and paid church staff members from any denomination or employees of any SBC-affiliated entity can take advantage of the Ministers' Getaway — a $29-per-night room rate at Glorieta or Ridgecrest.
"One of the reasons we started the Ministers' Getaway four years ago was to give pastors, church staff, and denominational workers an affordable, comfortable place to take a break," said Byron Hill, director of LifeWay Conference Centers. Many ministers are bivocational pastors or work at small churches, Hill noted, so extra finances for a family getaway or personal retreat can be hard to come by.
"For LifeWay it's a way to reach out and minister to those who minister," Hill said. "It's about providing a place for them to recharge, refocus, and connect with God and renew that perspective of the ministry to which God has called them."
John Revell, editor of SBC LIFE in Nashville, Tennessee, took his family to Ridgecrest for several days in August of last year and stayed at the new Mountain Laurel Inn. The family enjoyed canoeing, hiking, and visiting nearby Gatlinburg, saving a significant amount of money with the Ministers' Getaway rate.
"We were delightfully surprised [by Ridgecrest]," Revell said. "I've stayed in hotels around the country costing well over $100 a night that haven't come close to the comfort we had at Ridgecrest."
While some use the Ministers' Getaway rate for family time, Wiggins said his wife "has been gracious" in sending him on an annual personal retreat — something he plans to continue.
"I could not ask for a better place than Ridgecrest to do this," he said. "The scenery and hiking trails are wonderful, and I could not ask for a better place to spend time in prayer and fasting. I am so thankful that LifeWay has made this available for ministers to just get away and relax and reflect and spend time alone with God."
The Ministers' Getaway offer is based on room availability and does not apply to groups and cannot be used to attend any scheduled conference or event. To make reservations at Ridgecrest, go to www.lifeway.com/ridgecrest or phone 1-800-588-7222. To make reservations at Glorieta, go to www.lifeway.com/glorieta or phone 1-800-797-4222.