Planning a Winter Retreat

January 2nd, 2017

Hello January and February! Do you ever feel like your winter schedule lacks something after the buzz of Christmas? Maybe it is time to try something new. Kick off 2017 with a winter retreat for your students! Here are a few tips for having the type of retreat that your students will talk about all year!

Let Your Student Leaders Help.

From the t-shirt design, the location, to the theme of the weekend please let your student leaders help. Do you want to plan a retreat that they will love? Why not let them create some of the magic and tell you what teenagers will respond to? My small group of student leaders were actually the ones who kept encouraging me to take our students on a weekend getaway. Originally, I viewed our weekend getaway on the beach with bonfires and cold evenings watching the waves come in. They viewed us in the mountains, anywhere that they could hike and have a fireplace to play games around at the end of the day. Your students know what students want, try asking them!

Location, Location, Location.

I live in North Carolina and have the opportunity to go to the beach, the lake, or the mountains for my retreats. Wherever you go, make sure it is the right size for your group. You want them to be able to have plenty of indoor and outdoor space to make noise and roam around. You might even want space to be able to plan some outdoor activities. Your location can make or break your retreat so do your research and find somewhere that is fun, has things for your students to do, and will fit your budget. Who knows, you might even find somewhere that doesn’t have wifi or even good cell reception by accident!

Good Food Doesn’t Hurt.  

One of the best things that we have done for our retreat is have one of the best cooks in the church come with us. Who wants to eat bland retreat center food? Can you think of someone who knows how to cook for your amount of people? Are they a good cook? Ask them if they wouldn’t mind cooking for the teens for a weekend! You can actually save tons of money cooking your own meals and they will taste way better. We also had a soda fridge and snacks available 24/7. Do it right and you will have some teens show up just because of the food – then you get to tell them about Jesus!

Find Something Creative to Do. 

Let’s talk services for a minute. These services are so important for your retreat but don’t forget that students don’t always want to hear just you or a speaker talk. I had the opportunity to preach a Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday morning lesson but my students needed to hear something fresh. They came to the retreat to get away from the noise and listen to God for a little while. Last year, we did a two-hour prayer walk around our campground. It took two hours because they walked a few miles but many of them were able to hear from God during that time. This year, I’m letting our student leaders take the reigns on our Saturday morning worship time. Whatever you do, don’t forget that students need time to rejuvenate as well. Add some creative worship aspects to your weekend that allow students to quiet their hearts and minds.

The Best Laid Plans…Become the Best Moments.

How long could students really sit around a fire? How many s’mores can a student eat before they get sick? How many of them will forget to bring warm clothes and complain about being cold? These are questions that we often ask ourselves when planning events during a retreat. At my last retreat with my students, I had planned a bonfire with s’mores for our final night together. I expected this to last up to an hour and a half before the teenagers complained of the cold and would decide to go inside. Some did complain and go back into our cozy cabin but something special happened that night. Our students were having so much fun being together, singing songs, playing games, and stuffing their faces with marshmallows that my adults and I decided to cancel everything for the rest of the evening. We let our students get rowdy and forget about our schedule. We let our students just be with one another celebrating life and the joy that we can have in Christ. Whatever you do, wherever you go, remember that sometimes the best plans turn into the most talked about points of your retreat and that you don’t always have to stick to the schedule. Retreating means to withdraw so don’t let your schedule get in the way of what God wants to give your students, a moment of rejuvenation in His love.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 2.40.01 PMJen Willard is a full time youth pastor in Charlotte, NC where she lives with her husband, Bryan. She is currently attending Nazarene Theological Seminary to obtain a Masters of Divinity. Jen is a coffee snob, beach addict, and travel enthusiast who loves walking with teenagers toward Jesus! Find me on INSTAGRAM and TWITTER as @DUCKJD.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.