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She Is the Lord’s

Mar 13, 2024

In 2017 when Courtney Cherest was asked to take over women’s ministry at Grace Church in Waldorf, Md., she knew she wanted to kick off the new ministry with a big fall launch event. She began thinking through hosting a simulcast event when her pastor said to her, “We don’t need that; we have you.”

With her pastor’s encouragement, Courtney gathered a team of women and they began planning their first all-day event. They titled it “She Is” and invited women to this one-day, three-session retreat hosted at the church, which included teaching, live worship, catered lunch, and door prizes. The theme was “She Is: Standing.” More than one hundred women showed up for the event.

In an effort to cater to a better, less-packed season on the calendar for most women, they hosted their second She Is event in February 2019. The theme for that year was “She Is: Planted” from Psalm 1, and even more ladies attended than the first one.

Stacie Buhl, student ministry director at Grace Waldorf, was on the planning team and emceed the event. Her sister Erin attended this second event and asked Courtney and team if they could put on the event at their own church, New Monmouth Baptist Church in New Jersey, where Erin’s husband served as a pastor. They did, and again the Lord was faithful to bring fruit through it.

Post-pandemic, Courtney and her team knew they wanted to do something more than a one-day event at the church. Courtney said, “We knew there was a need for community and restoration.” In 2023 they hosted their first offsite weekend retreat with the theme “She Is: Light” (from Matthew 5:14) and invited ladies from Grace Waldorf and New Monmouth Baptist Church. It was a fabulous weekend for over 110 ladies at a resort in Lancaster County, Pa., and the team decided to plan another one.

This past February, Grace Waldorf had their fourth She Is event, their second weekend retreat. Nearly 125 women registered for the retreat in search of community and spiritual refreshment. The theme, “She Is: The Lord’s,” focused on our belonging to God through Christ, our identity in Christ through the Gospel, and what that means for us. The sessions were: (1) We are the Lord’s; (2) We are Known and Loved; (3) We are Disciples; and (4) We are Called.

The retreat included a session Friday night, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday morning. After two of the sessions, attendees engaged in a focused time of Table Talk to go deeper in what they just heard, discuss what God taught them, and share how they were encouraged. On Friday night, the Gospel was presented clearly, and on Sunday testimonies were shared. They also played crowd games in each session and shared a formal meal together as a whole group on Saturday night.

At each session, a surprise giveaway awaited each woman at her seat, and one of them was an Easter Bible study. In the session, Courtney exhorted them toward the disciplines out of a deep love for God, which is birthed as a response to first knowing that His love for us is immeasurable. “Practicing the disciplines of our faith is important if we want to flourish in Christ,” she said. Several tables and pockets of women committed to going through the study together. “We love events. But what happens after the event is really critical. The biggest takeaway from this is the women getting into the Scriptures together.”

There is built-in free time for attendees to connect with each other and enjoy relaxing time away from the things in everyday life that require attention and energy. “We don’t provide extra activities. Free time is free time,” Courtney said. “A lot of community is built over late night talks, car rides, and shared meals.”

When asked what advice she would give to a church who had never done their own retreat, Courtney said, “If you feel strongly that God is leading you to an event like this, go for it! Practically speaking, recognize this is a big undertaking — build a team of women who share your vision and get to work!”

As a word of encouragement, Courtney shared, “Let go of the idea that a single event has to be for everyone. If you believe God has led you to do this, then do it for those He’s led you to do it for…let go of the idea that everyone has to be on board and to attend; there’s a lot of freedom in not needing everyone’s acceptance of an event.”

The She Is planning team has already decided to host She Is 2025. Courtney said, “We’ll do it for as long as we believe God is leading us to it!”

To connect with Courtney about her experience planning the event, contact her here.