Fall Retreat Secret Sauce

Over the past two months I have been a part of three retreats. I was the speaker for two of these retreats and hosted the other for my students. Two of the fall retreats had what I’m calling a “secret sauce” and the third (the one I hosted) did not.

So what is this secret sauce?

Free Time.

Whoa. Whoa. Settle down. I didn’t mean to blow your mind with this ground breaking concept!

But on the real, I was truly convicted about the way I structure a retreat. Our students are over-scheduled, over-worked, sleep deprived, and stressed. One of the youth pastors I spoke for told me he had a student who had to go see a doctor for stress related twitches.

Between tutoring, classes, athletic/musical/artistic practice, club meetings, chores, family time, and homework, our students have little to no downtime.

As youth pastors planning retreats and getaways, we have the opportunity to help students detach from chaotic weekly schedules and experience the beauty and serenity of free time. At my most recent retreat not only was there free time for the students to shoot hoops, play gaga ball, hike, or canoe, but there was a half hour of planned prayer and solitude.

When planning a retreat, it can be tempting to fill the schedule. In fact, if you are like me, you feel PRESSURED to fill the schedule! After all, these students/parents are paying good money for their kids to attend an event, so we better deliver with high quality, entertaining activities…right? Not so much…

The best thing that many of us can do is balance high quality programming with intentional free/down time. When we mark out intentional free time or planned prayer and solitude, we help our students understand what it means to Sabbath…a concept lost to football, homework, and projects.

What are your thoughts? Have you had success with intentional free time? Have you felt pressured to fill retreat schedules? Comment below!

David Headshot

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply to Robbie Cancel reply

3 thoughts on “Fall Retreat Secret Sauce

  1. Amen; some of the very best ministry happens during ‘freetime’. The trick is to have freetime that has plenty of options of what do with it…I like teaching kids how to make jewelry, if they choose to learn and make a souvenir of the vent.

  2. Point on. For years I have planned prayer / quiet times and free times on retreats. Free time is some of the best relationship building times with students.

    • Bill & Robbie,

      I could not agree more. What happens during “free time” often far exceeds what we expected to happen during sessions or services!