You’ve booked your retreat location, your general logistics are nailed down, and your schedule has a framework. (Read “Successful Retreat Planing: Part 1” here.) Now it’s time to think about the details:
Three months out, begin to plan out your lessons, devotionals, and worship times by developing sub-points or themes to your overarching theme. For example, the church that used the “Like Christ” theme further connected it to Facebook by creating sub-themes of Like Christ (Friday night), Follow Christ (Saturday morning), In a Relationship with Christ (Saturday night), and Share Christ (Sunday morning). Once you have developed your focus for each session, lesson, devotional, or worship, begin to make an outline of your curriculum/devotional plan for each one. Start a running supply list as you develop your lessons to make sure you have everything you need.
You will want to begin to plan out your activities. Some activities like swimming at the pool don’t need any planning, but others like messy games take a lot of planning. Use your theme and purpose to pick games and activities that make sense. The Source for Youth Ministry is a good resource for games and activities. Also consider building in meditation or reflection time, labyrinths, or other spiritual practices into your retreat.
The spiritual souvenir is not an essential component to the retreat or camp, but it can serve as reminder of their experience and an encouragement within their daily lives. Youth will keep things to remind them of great experiences, whether it’s a T-shirt, a bag, a rock, a ball, or anything else. You might want to give some thought to what kind of spiritual souvenir you might give the youth or have them create. If you plan to have T-shirts with the logo and theme on them, you need to get those ordered as well.
You could do something as simple as to get a bandana and have everyone write down their favorite thing about their time at the retreat or camp. Then, cut up the bandana (you might need more than one) into long strips that everyone can turn into bracelets, attach to key chains, or put in their Bibles to remind them about that retreat.
Get them signed up. Continue to remind them about the event and the registration deadline. Don’t forget that intentional invitation goes a long way, so if there are youth you really would like to attend, call them or tell them in person. Also, make sure you are getting all the things you will need from the parents at one time: registration form, money, discipline covenant, and medical release.
With one month to go, you want to build a detailed shopping list of all the supplies and food (don’t forget snacks) that you will need. If at all possible, buy these things in advance and take them with you. Another helpful tip is to pack them how you will need them. Have all the supplies for lesson 1 together, worship supplies together, etc. This will keep you from hunting through everything to find pens or candles.
Once your registration deadline has passed, you can begin working on onsite logistics like rooming lists, name tags, and assigning small groups and leaders. You will know if you have too many or too few youth to do certain activities and plan accordingly.
Finally, after the registration deadline has passed, send parents and youth final information about the retreat or camp. You may have told them already, but make sure they know what to bring including how much extra money, bedding if needed, Bibles, types of clothes, etc. Also, be sure to communicate to parents how to get in touch with you on your cell phone and the camp office number, as many camps are located where there is poor cell service.
What has worked well for you in planning your retreats? What have you learned not to do?
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.