I know many of us put on Disciple Now weekends, Middle School or High School retreats throughout the year. If we break down the DNA of those weekends, what is the purpose or goal? The goal should always be to accomplish one of two things: evangelize to your students or spiritually grow your students. Outside of these two goals, retreats should not be used for anything else. Here are five things I consider vital to pulling off a life-changing retreat:
1. Plan out your theme and goal for the weekend
Have you ever taken a personal retreat day? I try to take one regularly for my spiritual walk, but once a year I take a day to plan out our next Disciple Now or retreat weekend. Our church is part of a network of about 12 churches that come together to help put on one of the most powerful weekends of the year. Around 700 teenagers in our area come out to our event.
Over the last five Disciple Now weekends I have had the privilege of planning out the theme, speaker and band. But, one of the most important things about the weekend and our planning is the theme for the weekend. Why? Because we need to understand the goal or what outcome we seek for our students.
In March of this year, we had an amazing weekend that centered on the theme of “Rising.” The goal for the weekend was twofold. First, we challenged those who were non-Christians to rise and begin a relationship with Christ. Second, we challenged our students to rise and take their place in their schools, teams and churches to be missionaries for Christ.
Once you set a date for your retreat weekend, begin to plan out the theme and goals. Personally, I have found it fruitful to go on a spiritual retreat to plan out the weekend. But, the most important thing for your ministry is to pray over the goals of the weekend to be accomplished.
2. Choose your speaker and band wisely
There are many amazing speakers and bands within our nation, but I would recommend you talk to the band and the speaker before they arrive. I have put together many retreat weekends over the last 15 years and I have experienced failures in reaching the goals and purpose of the weekend by failing to choose the right speaker or band.
I have gotten to know some amazing speakers because I have called them to hear their heart for not just ministry to students, but also student pastors. I recommend booking your speaker and band a year out and call them so you can clearly hear their heart and share the vision for the weekend.
When it comes to the band you choose to lead worship, I personally love bringing in college students because they tend to invest in my students throughout the weekend. I want the best band I can get and I have seen God use worship bands from local colleges mightily in our Student Ministry. Whoever you choose, make sure they line up with your event theme and goals.
3. Write a curriculum strategically to align with the speaker
I am one of those weirdos out there who loves writing curriculum for events. But it is great to do that because I want the curriculum to line up with the speaker’s messages, passages and our theme for the weekend. I devote a month every fall to writing out our curriculum for retreat weekends. I have found that writing the curriculum allows our students stay focused on the sermon they just heard. Once you have heard from the speaker and know the passages and direction for each sermon, begin writing out the curriculum. I would recommend just praying through the curriculum and using your goals to help guide the small group time with your curriculum.
4. Promote with videos
I begin promoting three months out with different videos I make. If you are creative and have video skills, use them to help market your retreat weekend. Personally, I enjoy making funny videos to grab our students’ attention. If you have the privilege or chance to share it in schools, show different videos to help promote your retreat locally. We have students get excited and sign up without their churches because they want to be part of something God is speaking into their lives from the videos. Do not be afraid to get creative.
5. Be prepared for decisions to be made
The last thing I would tell you is be prepared for decisions. When I say prepared, I mean make sure to have counselors ready to receive students, a place set up where people can have conversations privately about how God is speaking to them, and a system in place for following up with students. Whenever we see students make a decision at one of our retreats, we make sure they are counseled and fill out a card about the decision they have made. We do not want our students leave a powerful weekend that doesn’t go home with them; it is important to follow up. The most important advice for planning a retreat is that you plan for decisions and plan to follow-up.
This article originally appeared here.