This week has been a rush. And not in a “it’s been exhilarating,” type of way, but more of a “where did my day go?” kinda way. You see, it’s retreat week. We are gearing up for our annual Disciple Now weekend retreat. Over the years I’ve discovered that regardless of how much preparation you put in prior event week, somehow the small things jump up to grab you!
This doesn’t give you permission to slack in your preparation, but rather should be your impetus to be so prepared that you are ready to handle any curveball that comes your way.
In the following list you will find eight things that I did to prepare for our upcoming retreat, or things I wish I had done in preparation for this weekend.
7 Thoughts on Winter Retreats:
1. Outsource the the speaker and the worship.
While this might seem like an obvious decision to many of you, our brother and sisters working in small congregations often have to chose between a band and speaker for budgetary reasons. Why pay a speaker when you can simply pay a band and carry the preaching load yourself? Answer: Relationships and sanity. It is extremely difficult to get mentally ready to preach when you are also the conductor/director of the schedule. Trying to wear two hats will prevent you from doing either at 100%. It might tighten the budget, but outsource.
2. People still like print materials.
This year, we took all sign-ups, schedules, and packing lists online. It has worked beautifully for around 80% of people, but left 1/5 of our parents confused. Make retreats easy for parents.
3. Put a retreat team together.
If you have multiple paid staff, divvy up the duties and execute. If you are a solo youth pastor, recruit a parent team that will totally take meals, lodging, transportation, recreation, and registration off your hands. This leaves you free to be creatively planning sessions beforehand and free to engage in relationships during the retreat.
4. 1-Minute Reflection after messages.
Many students will not take notes. After speaker finishes, have a 1-Minute reflection time where students are prompted to write down what they heard.
5. Intentionally make your grades intermingle.
For the bulk of the weekend, students will stick with students in their own grades. As a Youth Worker, be intentional in making sure that you are foster a gospel community that feels like family. You can do this by having a game where students are strategically placed into grade diverse groups.
6. Discussion is key.
If you have a speaker coming in, break-out into discussion immediately after the entire session is over. Student can use their 1-Minute reflection notes (mentioned above) to discuss what they found insightful during the message. Get your leaders to pry!
7. Make sure your students know WHY they are coming to the retreat.
The truth is, student attend retreats for a wide variety of reasons (friends, they want friends, they are being forced to go, they have nothing better to do, it sounds fun, etc.). I would offer that only a small few want to go for the purpose of “growing spiritually.” Maybe your students are just more spiritual than mine, but students need to be continually reminded the WHY of the weekend. Regardless of what brought them, make a continual effort to focus them on hearing from God and building gospel community.