So. . . you want to give your students the best retreat that has ever been held. There are about 20 in your group and it’s time to go away, leave the norm and spend quality time together. But how in the world would one go about planning a retreat for a youth group?
Here are 9 steps in planning a most excellent retreat.
1. WHAT IS A RETREAT?
It’s a time when you and your group of students can change the venue in which you hang out together making a culture of your own in order to grow, learn, play, plan, minister, and just, well . . . bond.
2. WHY A RETREAT?
Figure out your goals. What are you trying to accomplish that could just not be done at church? Why would you not sleep for 2 or 3 days while spending time with a bunch of screaming, emotional, hyper teens? It’s important to know why you want to do this. Figure out the “why”.
A. Bonding time is often needed for a youth group whether you have just 4 in the group or fifty-four. So often the time that is allotted for youth group meetings is rushed and not really a time when those in attendance can sit and discuss the details of how life is treating them and how they are responding.
B. Maybe your group needs time to plan the upcoming year together. What a great way to get feedback from students and let them participate in upcoming plans for the year.
C. A retreat is an excellent way to teach more in-depth Bible to those who really want to go further in their walk. Host a leadership retreat. Challenge students to participate who really want to go the extra mile in their understanding of the Word.
D. It might just be that there are divisions and schisms in your youth group and a weekend of play would tear down some walls. Make sure everyone is invited and encourage all to attend.
3. THE DATE
When is a great time and when is the worst time for a retreat?
Anytime, really, is a great time to plan a weekend away for your group. The key is to make sure to check school calendars and be sensitive to schedules in the school districts from where your students come. Football games are held on Friday evenings that include band members, cheerleaders and players. Springtime is ripe with plays. We have found, a great time is over Christmas break, maybe including News Years Eve. (Pray in the new year as a group.) We host youth retreats at the Teen Quest Ranch year-round and they all are quite successful.
4. THE PLACE
There are many places to go for a retreat. Safety and atmosphere would be top priorities. Because you work with students, fun should be added into the mix. Lots of teaching and quiet reflection can be part of your retreat but it’s always nice and creates great bonding when you also “play” together. We offer a variety of activity to choose from at the Teen Quest Ranch in Somerset Pennsylvania. A combo of meetings and play give a well-rounded time to get to know each other. Remember, if you rent just a facility you will need to enlist cooks and dishwashers, bring your own game equipment, sound system, grounds cleanup, program, worship team, and sometimes, even kitchen utensils and mattresses.
5. THE PRICE
There are several ways to pay for your retreat.
a. You can charge the individual students full price. But I am sure as in a lot of youth groups, you have students who are from un-involved families or from families who just don’t have money they will spend on a youth retreat.
b. The church can subsidize the entire price for each student. I don’t recommend this method although there are churches that do this. Students and their families need to be involved financially in the process. This gives more ownership and they will be more responsible during the retreat because they have invested in it.
c. The church can subsidize part of the price of the retreat.
d. The church can offer sponsorships to those who qualify as needy.
e. The youth group can hold car washes, “acts of service” days, bake sales or any other money making venture to earn the money as a group. The funds that are received are divided up among the students. This can become an issue and sometimes causes division because some have not been involved in the process but then want to receive the funds for camp. Some churches keep a tally of how many volunteer hours a student has participated in and monetize it giving them a percentage of help depending on how much they were involved.
Youth sponsors are needed when a retreat is held. You will need counselors to stay with your students in the cabins. You will need leaders to minister to the needs of students one-on-one. You will want to meet with your youth leaders ahead of time to relay to them: Their job description; boundaries and rules for the retreat; any spiritual teaching you may want to assign to them and any other information they need to know.
7. THE PLAN
When you know the reason, time and place, it’s time to get to work. Six months is needed to prepare parents and students for what is ahead. It’s great to print up a flyer or registration form as handouts for the students, but beware! Most will never make it home. Repeated announcements from the pulpit and in youth group will be needed to excite your students and their parents. Ask your pastor to allow you to make announcements from the pulpit; this offers an opportunity to get the church body involved.
8. THE SCHEDULE
Plan your schedule from the time you meet the students at the church to the time they are dropped off. Make sure parents know their responsibility in this. You don’t want to be driving 60 miles picking up kids before you ever begin your retreat. And you definitely are not going to feel like dropping each and every student off at their homes after you return to the church. Be definite about your times. Hint: Always tell parents to drop their children ½ hours before you actually plan to leave. This allows for packing the stuff and bathroom runs.Here is a sample schedule for a Friday – Sunday retreat.
Sample Weekend Schedule
11:30 Group Activity
12:15 To Cabins
12:30-7:00 Lights Out (Quiet hours)
7:00 Wake up
10:45 Group Activity
1:00- 5:00 Planned activities
6:45-7:30 Free Time
10:30 Group Activity
11:30 To Cabins
11:59-7 Lights out (Quiet hours)
7:00 Wake up & Pack up
11:30 Lunch / Departure
9. REMEMBER . . .
Release forms and a sheet telling the students what to bring
Speaker and worship leader
An assigned person to give meds to students and take care of medical needs
At Teen Quest we take care of all your meals and offer many activities taking the pressure off so you can take more time planning your spiritual times with your students. We work with you to make your retreat the best ever!
The most important thing you want to do is open the Word of God to your students in a refreshing way and experience great worship. Why worry about whether you remembered to bring the kick ball or football?
Book your next retreat at the Teen Quest Ranch. We are open year-round and can help you with your event so you can plug in to your students with fun, friends, and godly challenges from the Word of God. Contact us today and schedule your next upcoming fun! 814.444.9500