We've all been there. We've either put on weekend retreats or have thought to put one on before. I know that Weekend Retreats can be the most important date on your youth ministry calendar and some of the most intimate and crucial time spent with your students. But, as with most things in youth ministry, Weekend Retreats also have a messy and ugly side that you have to combat. If you want to put on your weekend retreat, or if you want your next one to be better than your last, then you need to know and understand these three ugly truths. Plus, we'll share with you just what you can do to overcome all three of them.
1. Peer Pressure Will Affect Your Sign-Ups
I guarantee, 9 times out of 10, this is what will happen when you open the registration for your next event:
You excitedly open your registration list. The following Wednesday, the first student who walks into your youth group's gathering area. You stop and say: "Hey! You should register for our weekend retreat! It's going to be an incredible weekend spent with the entire youth group. We're going to be digging deep into the Word, and we have an incredible band coming in just for the weekend. The band will also lead your small groups!" Your student reluctantly turns back to you and asks: "Well, who else is coming?"
There is this unknown logic in the minds of middle/high school students that tells them that if their friends aren't coming to something, then they aren't going either. Students seek assurance, so the last thing they want to do is to sign up for an event, and then find out later that none of their friends are coming. They wait until the last second when they know that all of their friends are also coming before they finally commit to signing up.
An important principle to keep in mind in regards to this ugly truth is this:
No One Comes Until Everyone Comes
I know this principle seems backward, but hear me out. All it takes is one student being the first amongst their friends to sign up. Once Josh signs up, Mason signs up. Then since Mason is going, Madison decides to register. Then since Madison is coming, OF COURSE, Rachel is coming, and so on. All it takes is ONE student being the first to commit, then other students will follow right behind.
2. You Have to Give It More Energy Than You Think It Will Take (And Probably More Than You Have to Give)
If you have ever met a youth pastor who has put on a successful weekend retreat, and not collapsed from exhaustion on Sunday afternoon once they get home, then please send me his/her name and number. They deserve to be in the Youth Ministry Hall of Fame.
With any weekend retreat (or any event for that matter), there are approximately 1,593,468 things that could go wrong at basically any second. So, you are conditioned to have your head on a swivel. On top of that, you are either giving or overseeing (up to) 4 different sessions. And lastly, you're asked to participate in the dodgeball tournament afterward because your students think it would be hysterical to see you getting pelted with dodgeballs (you still love them for it though).
The bottom line is this: by Friday night; you have already pushed your mind and body to its limits. But then, by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit provides that extra energy and encouragement (sometimes without you even asking for it) that allows you to go even farther.
The reality is there is no way to adequately prepare for the amount of energy that you are likely going to exhaust throughout your Weekend Retreat. But, what you can do is this: Block out time AFTER your event where you allow yourself to recover, process what happened amongst your students throughout your last weekend, and thank God for the ways He worked in the hearts of your students during your event. In four words: Thank God and Rest.
3. There Is No Such Thing as a Perfect Date
This one... this one just plain stinks. I have two daughters of my own, and one of my (many) jobs is to ensure that there is never overlap in their schedules, meaning they can both be exactly where they need to be at the exact times they need to be there. This translates to your ministry too. You may be a planner, and you may not be. Still, almost all of us can agree that when picking the date of our weekend retreat, we all want to believe that there is that one perfect weekend where the stars will aline. There will be no practices, no proms/dances, no football/basketball game, or whatever may be preventing our students from coming, but here is the ugly truth:
IT DOESN'T EXIST
(I hate typing that)
The perfect date does not exist. I'm sorry. You may have 100 students at your event, but there may still be another 5-10 students who couldn't make it because of their debate team competition. So, what can you do about this ugly truth?
Just take this mindset into every planning meeting, date picking, whatever it may be:
I will pick the best date possible, and pray that the Lord brings as many students to this retreat as He deems worthy.
If we believe that the Lord has a perfect plan for our lives, then we must trust that he will bless our efforts to bring our students (His Children!) closer to Him through an event. Therefore, pick the best date possible for as many students possible, and pray for the debate team bus to break down the night before the event.
Kidding. Kidding. I'm kidding!
But seriously, trust that the Lord will bring to your event the exact students that He intended to be at this event. You can even take this a step forward and apply it to the impact the Lord will have in the lives of your students throughout your event. God will speak to the students that He wants to speak to during your event. Trust His perfect plan for the lives of your students!
Anna and Jake take these 3 ugly truths a little further in the video below. Click to watch now!
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