Three Elements of a Word-Driven Student Retreat
Would you say your retreats are driven by God’s Word?
Retreats can serve many different purposes within a student ministry—fellowship, community, discipleship, evangelism, leadership training, etc… Within our student ministry, we have found a rhythm with our retreats, focusing on outreach in the Fall and discipleship in the Spring. While every retreat should seek to explain and apply God’s Word to the lives of students, I would also commend setting aside a retreat that specifically focuses on getting students in God’s Word and equipping them to understand it for themselves. We do this very thing with our Spring retreat, which we call Medimemo.
Medimemo = Meditate + Memorize.
There are two different ways we explain this within our student ministry:
- Medimemo is the practice of reflecting on God’s Word in order to apply it to your life. We desire to see every student develop this discipline in their life. We seek to encourage and model this for students through small groups, personal discipleship, and any other means possible.
- Medimemo is also our Spring retreat in which students get away from their normal routine to slow down, spend meaningful time with God, and be encouraged and equipped to develop this discipline in their daily life.
The ultimate conviction behind this kind of retreat is that God’s Word has the power to transform the lives of students.
And if that is going to happen, they must be encouraged and equipped to understand and apply God’s Word for themselves.
Here are three elements to emphasize in your next retreat to help make it more Word-driven:
1. Center Your Retreat Planning Around a Passage
The first step to planning a Word-driven retreat is to center everything for the weekend around a specific passage. If a theme comes to mind first, seek to tether that theme faithfully to a biblical passage. For example, you may want to focus your students on following Jesus. You may pick a passage like Mark 8:34-38 or Philippians 3:1-16.
Once you identify a passage, study it and break it down into three messages. If you were using Philippians 3:1-16, you might break down the passage 3:1-7, 3:8-11, and 3:12-16. With a little further study of this particular passage, you may come away with a theme for the retreat like: “Jesus is Greater.” This theme and breakdown of the passage will provide the structure for your worship sessions throughout the retreat. It can also help create the flow of your devotional content you create for students. Walking through one passage for the retreat will also provide an opportunity for your speaker to model how to study God’s Word for students as they preach through the text. What you emphasize in crafting your theme and structuring your messages will largely determine what students walk away with from the retreat.
2. Create Space for Students to Spend Time in God’s Word During the Retreat
While the first element is essential, this second point is what especially makes for a Word-driven retreat. There are two ways you can create space for students to spend time in God’s Word throughout your retreat. The two typical times students do this at a retreat would be morning devotions and small group discussion. A Word-driven retreat will take these times and intentionally craft them in a way to help students grow in how to study God’s Word for themselves.
For example, during Medimemo students have five Medimemo sessions that total up to at least five hours of students reflecting on God’s Word. In these sessions, students spend time in the passage being preached through during the retreat. Some Medimemo sessions are in the morning, some are before worship, and some are after worship in a group setting. As students study the passage on their own, it helps to provide questions that students can use as an example for studying God’s Word on their own after the retreat is over. Additionally, leaders can help review and answer questions students may have from studying the passage on their own.
3. Challenge Students to Memorize the Passage Over the Retreat
A final element of a Word-driven retreat is challenging students to memorize Scripture during the retreat. This is an essential discipline to the Christian life but is so often neglected by many students and student ministries. A retreat provides a focused environment in which to challenge students to strengthen Scripture memory muscles. Since your retreat is centered around a specific passage and students are studying that passage in depth on their own and through discussion, you can pick the key verses from within that passage for students to memorize. For example, within each Medimemo session, you can provide students a space to write out the selected verses they are memorizing. See this Sample Medimemo Booklet below for an example of what this might look like.
These are just three elements that make for a Word-driven retreat. The key is to approach retreat planning with intentionality and with a view to providing a model of studying God’s Word and put it to use in their daily life. We must remind ourselves throughout retreat planning of this truth: God will use His Word to do His work in us! If we let this truth guide us, we will be well on our way to planning a Word-driven retreat.
MICHAEL GUYER is the Minister to Students at OPEN DOOR CHURCH where he has served for the last five years. He gets most excited about good coffee, enjoying friends and family, making disciples, engaging culture, and planting churches. He writes to help others delight in, declare, and display the gospel in all of life. Connect with Michael on Twitter: @msguyer
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