We have a spring retreat coming up in our student ministry. I love retreats, and I try to plan them regularly. I want to share some tips that I have learned on how to make your retreat successful. I hope for you to comment and share some ideas as well for me to use to make our retreats more effective.
- Keep it as cheap as possible– Now, the retreat itself needs to be done at a high level, but the cost needs to stay cheap. I love keeping things as cheap as possible so that I know any student can afford to go. The cheaper things are, the more attendance you usually have. Find a cheap location, find deals on food, etc.
- Allow students to invite their friends– In fact, encourage this. Students love bringing their friends with them to things, and you need to take advantage of this. On your retreats, encourage bringing your friends.
- Limit technology– Students struggle with this in some ways, but I have found that this helps in so many ways. First, it allows them to focus their attention on what God has for them. It also will strengthen their friendships and the community of the retreat. If you allow technology all of the time, students will resort to texting all week, and playing video games.
- Assign a game director– Some youth pastors try to handle services and games. This is too much. Focus your attention on the services, and delegate the games. When I say delegate, give it totally to someone to completely handle the game. This means from the planning, the promoting and explanation, and the execution of the game.
- Have a band or a singing group– Students love music. You need to have good music for them to listen to during the services if possible. Music excites students.
- Try and get an outside speaker– This will keep it fresh. Many times, youth pastors speak weekly to their students, and on retreats. Sometimes, the students need to hear from someone else. Now, if your budget does not allow for an outside speaker, I encourage you as the youth pastor to do a series of some sort while speaking. Anything to keep things fresh.
- Have a theme– This is where you get missional and purposeful about the retreat. Do not just plan a retreat for the sake of having a retreat. Plan a retreat with purpose, and have a goal for the trip.
- Build relationships while on the retreat– Take time during free time to be with students. Eat with the students. Play the games with the students. Students love it when you get involved.
- Have good food– Look, you are dealing with students, have good food. Enough said.
- Equip good leaders– Leaders are key and can make or break your retreat. Make sure that you have recruited some good leaders to attend the retreat with you. Equip them with the vision and purpose of the retreat. Teach them and train them to do exactly what you want to see done through the retreat. This is where we go wrong from time to time. We have an event like this, but never communicate its purpose to the leaders who are with the students as much as you are. Then, we are shocked when the leaders are not on board with the vision. Look, it is our responsibility to make sure the purpose is communicated to the leaders.
These are just a few of the tips that I have learned. What about you? What have you learned?