I have taught many courses about planning retreats and camps, and I’ve participated in a ton of them, but there’s always something I can learn from any experiences. This weekend we had our “Fall Retreat” with our students, and I was reminded of some things that I probably have taught multiple times but may have forgotten over the years.

Here they are:

  1. Small groups is where it’s at: As much as we plan the large group experiences and try to get the worship and main speaker to mesh with our students, the small group times is always where much of the real life conversations take place. Small group leaders are crucial. In fact, this year, my student leadership team saw the preliminary schedule and asked me to include more small group time.
  2. Students will worship if you lead them and let them: I’m always worried about the “worship” time with students. Quite often, I feel like it has potential for falling through and having little impact. This weekend, however, I saw many of our students worshipping freely. One of the band members even commented that they were singing louder than the sound system.
  3. The Group that Plays Together… We intentionally built in time for leaders and students to play together. Too often I have gotten caught up in the need to teach something or make everything purposeful in the sense of having “a point” or being a “teachable moment.” The reality is that sometimes we need some time to let down our hair and just play. They also need to see their leaders being real.
  4. Make it Fun for the Leaders, too: Leadership can be difficult. Leading a retreat often means no sleep and (sometimes) cold showers. We ask leaders to do a lot. So building in some time for them to have fun as well with the students is an important aspect of retreats and camps. Don’t make them be the police all the time.
  5. Don’t Go Alone: One of our rules for the retreat was “Don’t go anywhere alone.” That works for physically safety for the students, and it also works for mental stability of the person leading the retreat. One thing I wish I did better was delegate things to my leaders. I need to learn to ask others to take specific parts of different events and then rest in their ability to do it. It’s important to not try to do everything in a camp or retreat. That’s something I need to work on.

These are things that I have been reminded of this week. I sure learned a lot from this weekend, both from the teaching times as well as from the entire planning and executing process.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need some sleep.