7 Ways To Make Sure Your Volunteers Love Serving At Retreats

March 21st, 2017

Can we all admit that student ministry retreats have a certain level of “weird” involved in them, no matter what?AAnytime you mix middle and high school students, a retreat center, junk food, and outdoor activities, weird is bound to happen!

Those of us in student ministry know what to expect during a retreat. The late night conversations. Testimonies by the campfire. Girls spending too much time on hygiene. Boys not spending enough.

Our new leaders, and even those who just have not been on a retreat yet, don’t know what to expect. Leaders give three to five days of their time to be on call every minute of the day with minimal breaks. It’s understandable for new volunteers to be nervous or on edge before the retreat.

Once they decide to attend, you have a unique mission ahead: You have to balance your focus between the students attending and the leaders there to serve. How do you take care of volunteers who are giving up their vacation time to sleep on a single mattress? You don’t want their worst fears to come true. You want them to minister to students. To enable them to do that, you have to have some tricks up your sleeve for making sure your leaders have an amazing time at the retreat too.

1. Hospitality Room

A hospitality room is an easy way to give your leaders a few perks over the weekend. Keep it stocked with healthy snacks, great coffee with plenty of creamers, and a few encouraging Bible verses. This gives them a time-out from the high energy weekend and allows them to catch their breath before jumping back into the mix.

2. Get Enough Volunteers

When you are low on volunteers for a retreat, it causes the leaders who did attend to take on more stress, responsibility, and care. When the ratio of students to adults is off, your adults will transform into “help” instead of “leaders.” The difference may seem subtle, but the impact of the weekend hangs in the balance. “Help” ensures that everyone is accounted for and safe. “Leaders” ensure that everyone is known and is ministered to. I maintain a ratio of one adult for every four students for off-campus events and retreats.

3. Share God Stories

What is happening in the lives of the students during the retreat? Make it a habit to share those incredible testimonies of how God is working with your leaders. They want to celebrate what God is doing and know that their service is making a difference.

4. Pay Their Way

Your leaders are already losing vacation time by serving at the retreat – they don’t need to spend their money to serve. Aim to allow every leader to attend camps and retreats for free. Add it into your budget. Get your senior leadership on board. Make sure you know the exact number of leaders you will need so that you don’t take four extra leaders and drain your budget. If free is not an option, then give an incredible discount to your leaders. Remember, most of your student volunteers are parents of teenagers and will be paying for their student to attend.

5. Allow Them To Rest

Running around with students for three to five days can beat anyone up! Most of your leaders are not 21 years old anymore! Give them opportunities to rest during the retreat. During track times let half of your leaders have a break, then switch the leaders out for the second hour. They will appreciate the rest and serve better when they are energized.

6. Plan For Them To Grow With Jesus

Spiritual retreats and camps aren’t solely for the students – Jesus can transform leaders as well. I know you know that, but many of us can be so laser-focused on the students that we miss opportunities to minister to the leaders. As the senior leader of the student ministry, your role is to invest in and minister to your team so that they can invest in and minister to the students. Take some time to pray over your specific leaders and see how you can ensure they grow spiritually during the retreat.

7. Supply Them With The Study One Month In Advance

Your retreat’s purpose is to bring students closer to Jesus. In the whirlwind of packing vans, planning games, buying food, and contacting the band, don’t forget to prepare your leaders for the small group sessions. The earlier you get the lessons to the leaders, the more prepared and comfortable they will be during the retreat. I know the temptation is to throw your hands up in the air and question when, and if, they will look at the material beforehand. Simply set the expectation, communicate the lessons, and encourage them to make much of Jesus during the retreat. I promise your leaders will surprise you.

Now What?

How else are you making sure that your leaders love serving at retreats?

Chase Snyder - Headshot - 200x200CHASE SNYDER is the founder of MINISTRYBUBBLE.COM and serves as a Family Pastor in Knoxville, Tenn. He seeks to live a life that glorifies God and disciples others through their day-to-day lives, and his passion is equipping those in the church to seek those who are outside of it. Check out his writing at MINISTRY BUBBLE or connect with him on FACEBOOKTWITTER, or INSTAGRAM.


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