Retreats

Belly Up Bible Retreat

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Well, this is based on the book and story of Jonah.
You go into a place, can be in the church building or in a house, depending on the size of your group.
You get the kids to bring flashlights, sleeping bags, pillows, food and drinks, and most importantly, their Bible.
You turn out the lights, and you spend 24 hours in the dark. You spend this time studying Jonah, playing games related to that book, and doing other things you can in the dark. Allowing the kids to sleep any time they need to and awaking when they feel like it.
Do NOT allow watches or clocks in the building. Choose a room close to a bathroom.
Get someone to agree to get the group when the 24 hours are finished.
This is a good way to get a slight idea of how Jonah might have felt.

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Coffee House At Camp

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Good activity for the final night at a camp/retreat is to have a coffee house program. At the beginning of the camp, divide the kids into groups of about 7 each. Ask each group to develop a coffee house presentation such as drama, singing, reading, etc. During the coffee house, each group will have the opportunity to make its presentation. Set up for the coffee house by covering the tables with white paper. If the tables can be folded, place them on the floor in the shape of a circle. Have the campers bring their sleeping bags, and blankets to sit or lie upon in front of the tables. Use candles on the tables for light. Have juice and donuts, and popcorn for refreshment. Begin with singing and guitar music. Let each group make its presentation. Close with a time of sharing and prayer.

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Creative Weekend Retreats

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Some interesting ideas:
1.) Times of silence (after an evening meeting for a couple of hours)
2.) Weekend of study: fellowship and everyone gets their homework done. Everyone brings homework, terms papers etc.
3.) Minority Weekend: Give group a glimpse of prejudice. Divide the group into 2 sub-groups. Each sub-group plays the role of a minority for half of the weekend.

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Elbow Grease Retreat

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Find a retreat facility that is in need of some volunteer work. I know of some that will lower their rates if you will come and donate the labor. This is something that can help build your group and add a sense of ownership to a facility. If you live anywhere near Arkansas, check out www.gbgm-umc.org/outdoorministries for access to 3 campgrounds and a retreat facility. I did a work retreat at Mt Eagle last spring and we got to cut a new hiking trail that was a prayer walk. Those of us that went really bonded as we got down and dirty moving downed trees, raking, building steps and benches, etc. This can be great for a small group. Make sure that you find out what equipment you need to bring for the project and let your participants know what will be expected of them.

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Free Time Retreat

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Kids seem to love free time at retreats. Try giving them a full free day. Let them know the day before that they can do exactly as they like. When everyone gets up in the morning, they’ll discover that the cooks were also free and there’s no breakfast. They’ll hopefully form groups to get things done. Everything will be a group decision. They’ll learn that discipline is essential, especially in youth groups. *** I think a youth leader may be needed to help get things off the ground just in case chaos develops. Plan in advance for such an occasion.

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Girls’ Retreat

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A few years ago we were dealing with some issues among the young ladies of our group. I felt the Lord lay it on my heart to have a weekend retreat just for them. It didn’t actually take place until a year later, but it turned out great. We’ve had a total of three retreats so far and the girls are already looking forward to this year’s retreat.

There are three goals for the retreat: strengthen relationships between the girls, strengthen relationships between the girls and the female members of the student staff, teach and talk openly about issues that young ladies deal with.

I’ve tried something different on each retreat. Here’s what seems to work best with our group.

1. Stay in a lodge large enough to house your entire group. If you have to limit the number of participants then do so. It’s difficult to achieve unity and develop relationships when everyone is divided into hotel rooms and there is not a central place to hang out.

2. If you have a problem with cliques within the group plan an activity that splits them up and encourages them to meet others. It can be an icebreaker or a game that focuses on teamwork. If you stay in hotels or a lodge that has several bedrooms, put the members of a clique in separate rooms with people they don’t know very well. (But don’t reveal the rooming list until you arrive at your destination – it will save a lot of headaches!)

4. Don’t try to cram too much into the weekend. The format that seems to work best for us is 3 teaching sessions (or 2 sessions and a devotional prior to departure), one fun activity outside of the lodge and adequate free-time to play cards, games, etc.

5. Unless the girls are out of school on Friday, try to stay within two hours of home. This is precious time – you don’t want to eat it up with a long drive.

6. Use chaperones that you can trust and that the students feel comfortable with. You may have young ladies that share very personal and confidential things. Be sure your chaperones are trustworthy. I have used parents as chaperones, but only in cases that I knew their daughters and the other teens would not be hindered by their presence.

We try to choose topics that the girls seem to be dealing with at the time. Two years ago the topics were relationships (dating and friendships), modesty, and self-image. Last year’s topics were having a strong foundation and finding God’s purpose for your life.

With the right planning and preparation and lots of prayer you can have a powerful weekend that truly impacts the lives of the participants.

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Lasting Memories

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For large retreats: Buy or make books and put a prayer or poem on the cover – for each retreatant. Put retreatants name on the book and at the first part of the retreat explain to the students that the books are to be left in the room but that they should take the time to write in each book an honest and helpful note to the person who has their name on the book. Everyone should take the time to write in each book. This will greatly help each teen feel more a part of the group. This is especially good for a fall retreat when everyone is new.

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Letter From Home

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Before a retreat, contact parents a couple weeks ahead of time to notify them to write a letter to their son or daughter, which will be read by their kid at the retreat. The kids should have no idea that this is being done. The letter can include encouragement, love, and other things people usually don’t find the time to say in their busy lives. We’ve found that the best time to do this is the morning that we are headed back home, because the kids are generally in a tired but calm and reflective mood. Hand out the letters and instruct the kids to find a space of their own to read the letter to themselves (doing this outside is nice). These letters can really open up communication with adolescents and their parents, and let them know that they really care. This is a great activity for high schoolers, where tension with their parents can run very high.

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Road Rules

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Much like the MTV show by the same name, but it is a spiritual retreat put on wheels, with stops along the way for food, sleep, and bathrooms (of course)- BUT also for devotional times (connected with a location), challenges, mini-events, and other craziness.
Combine “Discipleship Now”, “Survivor”, a lock-in, and then put it on wheels. Your destination can be someplace particular or it can be absolutely no where (the trip is the event). Lots of bonding, Lots of fun, Lots of spiritual growth!!!

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Soul Survivor Retreat

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This retreat is based upon the TV series “Survivor”. Arrange for two large campsites at a state park or local camping site. Depending upon what type of terrain you are closest to will determine the theme of the retreat. Divide your group into two “tribes” and designate a name for each. Ensure the participants have a minimal amount of gear and only one luxury item each.

Have the tribes compete in a series of both physical and spiritual challenges. Such as relay races or Bible drills. The winning tribe receives some luxury, such as, air matresses, tiki torches w/ bug repellent oil, candy bars, you name it! At the end of each evening you can hold a “tribal council” devotional around a bon-fire, unlike the TV series, no one is voted out and everyone wins. This works when you have a diversity in ages as well. Even parents can get into it. Maybe even put them in opposite tribes.

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