3 Small Things That Make Big Differences at Retreats


I recently spoke at a weekend youth retreat for Gospel Centre and I was again reminded of the importance of retreats in the rhythm of the youth calendar. However, just because they are important doesn’t mean that we always make the most of these opportunities.

The problem is that we see the importance so we try to do big radical things to get the most out of the weekend.  The results are often scattered.  What would happen if there were three small things we could do that would have a big impact?

Here are three of those small things you can do at your next retreat.

Use Your Leaders

This is a great opportunity for your leaders to be used to great effect.  If you are the main youth leader this is also a great opportunity for you to be present with students and not doing a bunch of stuff.

You can have leaders running games, organizing the activities, even having them doing the speaking.  Sit down and plan out everything that has to happen throughout the weekend and then start assigning everything to your leaders.  Could this be a weekend were you can just spend time with students.

This also becomes an awesome weekend of your leaders being effective in ministry.

Lots of Structure but Enough Free Time

We often give free time because that is what students ask for.  However too much free time in the schedule leads to boredom.  This sounds counterintuitive but it is true.  The worst youth camp I ever spoke at had almost no structure to it.  Students were bored and leaders were frustrated.

The problem though is not having any free time at all.  This burns out the students and leaders.  It also does’t give them the hangout time they really want.

You must find the balance of planning activities and services.  This is because great things really happen during these planned times.  But you also have to have free time because great things also happen during these unstructured times.

Review Lessons Taught

One thing I saw Matt do on the Gospel Centre retreat was review with the students.  At some point in every service he would get up with a container of candy and ask what they have been learning.  Hands went flying up as every student wanted to get candy.

What else was happening was that every student was processing what they were learning.  You might say “so what”.  Here is the big deal, when a student processes what they learned they are more likely to remember it.  Do you want your students to remember the lessons that are taught throughout the weekend?  If the answer is yes then steal this idea from Matt.

If you don’t believe me, here is proof, the students on this retreat were mentioning lessons learned not only from the current retreat but also lessons from a year ago.

 What are some ideas you have to make a retreat great?

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Tyson Howells

Tyson is the associate youth ministry director for Vanguard Youth Ministry Institute. He has been a youth pastor for many years in Winnipeg as well as in Edmonton. Tyson is passionate in seeing relational youth ministry that results in youth that are passionate about following Jesus. He still leads a small group at the youth group in his home church.