4 Strategies to Build on the Youth Camp, Conference or Retreat Experience

Enthusiasm is running high!

New commitments have been made. Now what are you going to do? The temptation is to rejoice, give a sigh of relief and then relax. The danger is that in this exciting time commitments may be forgotten. Students might not get the help that they need to follow through. Here are 4 proven strategies to help students build on the experience… 

1. Debrief or Sharing Time

This can be built right into your retreat, camp or conference. One small youth group packed into two hotel rooms one for guys and one for girls to work through a number of questions to follow up on the youth amazing youth conference that they experience. In amongst the 15,000 youth that attended it was difficult to know what the kids got out of the event. Here are some debriefing questions you can use:

  • What was the best part of this event?
  • Which speaker or workshop was the best, why?
  • What is your big take away from this event?
  • What decisions or commitments did you make while you were here?
  • What changes to your life do you plan to make when you get back?
  • How can we help you when we return?

2. The After Party

Many youth groups move quickly to solidify what happened at the conference, retreat or camp. An after party could include any or all of these elements

  • A video that you made at the event
  • Short clips of some of the speakers or sessions
  • One minute testimonies from students
  • Singing some of the songs from the event
  • Breaking into small group and using the debriefing questions from above
  • Goal setting for individuals or small groups (Use SMART goals)
  • Setting up accountability partners

3. Follow Up of New Converts

I hope that your group already does this regularly and you have a good resource to work through with a student. There are many good resources on line. The most important thing is that the student understands the decision that they have made and has a plan to begin their discipleship journey. A good program should go 4 to 6 weeks. They should meet at the same time and place each week. The person doing the follow up should provide the new convert with materials and pray for him or her every day. Here are some important topics to discuss and spiritual disciplines for the new Christian to practice. (here is a whole course layout on 9 basics. Consider also Alpha for Youth!)

  • Understanding Salvation and Lordship of Christ
  • Fellowship –being part of the body of Christ through youth group, small group and church.
  • Prayer and Worship–communicating constantly with the One who saved them –living a life of gratitude
  • Reading the Bible (daily devouring it devotionally) –Provide a plan and basic suggestions for understanding and acting up it
  • Sharing and Service –living a life to serve God by caring for others and sharing the God’s love

4. Accountability Partners and Groups

Students have a general sense that they want to better Christians after an event like this but the commitment can be short lived (do you even remember you New Years resolutions this year?) A coach, a mentor, personal spiritual trainer, or just a friend can help keep a student on track (at least until the next camp, retreat or conference.)

One way to do this is that each student craft 3 SMART goals. Each time that they meet with their mentor, coach, peer or group they report on their progress toward the goals or their struggles that week moving toward them.

Another approach is to have a partner to share the promises of a promise keeper. They work really well also: Here are the 7 questions to ask.

  • PROMISE 1 Have you kept up your commitment to honoring Jesus Christ through worship, prayer and obedience to God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit?
  • PROMISE 2 -Have you kept your commitment to pursuing vital relationships with a few other people, understanding that he needs brothers to help him keep his promises?
  • PROMISE 3 -Have you kept your commitment to practicing spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity?
  • PROMISE 4 -Have you kept your commitment to building strong relationships with friends and family through love, protection and biblical values?
  • PROMISE 5 -Have you kept your commitment to supporting the mission of your youth ministry and the church by honoring and praying for your pastor, and by actively giving your time and resources?
  • PROMISE 6 -Have you kept your commitment to reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity?
  • PROMISE 7 -Have you kept your commitment to influencing your world, being obedient to the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30-31) and the Great Commission?

Make the Most of the Experience

I have missed out on a lot of these opportunities partly because I didn’t plan ahead and partly because I was so exhausted after the event that I wanted to sleep for a week. Get help in advance to make sure that some of these follow up activities take place.

Remember you planned that event to make a lasting impact in the lives of students. Taking a few extra steps afterward will help students live up to the commitments that they made and become stronger Christians.

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com