This past weekend was spent at our local church camp at the annual junior high retreat. The picture shows the majority of our group (missing a couple of adults) and we are portraying the theme for the weekend – “Deuces.”
The speaker spent the weekend speaking out of two main passages – 2 Corinthians 5 and 1 Peter 2. The two “2s” were the “deuces” and he did a great job challenging the students (and adults!) to not just live for self, but for God and for others.
As I thought about our time at the retreat, I thought of the value of retreats. I’ve been on a number of retreats through my youth ministry experience and a retreat provides several things regular church programming/events don’t always do.
At a retreat, your group has a chance to be put in a new environment. Even if the environment is familiar (like our church camp), there is disconnection with things at home (tv, cell phones, computer, etc.). You get to spend a day and a half with brand new people. Staying two nights in a dorm is a different environment for our students and is a change of pace (even if the mattresses aren’t overly comfortable),
A retreat also provides new experiences. Usually there are some large-group challenges or games that bring about teamwork among the groups. Our camp gives us the opportunity to ride a zip-line, swing on a giant swing or play ga-ga or nine-square-in-the-air.
At a retreat our students get to hear different voices. Normally the speaker and leaders aren’t people our students know very well. The speaker’s style and the layout of the retreat is different from what they experience at church, so it brings a different perspective.
Retreats also create new memories. Students remember throwing paper wads at each other or the time one of the students fell into the water while on the rope swing. Months later the students have a shared memory of a time spent at a retreat and it can lead to discussions about other things.
We had a good weekend and the retreat opened up doors of conversation that may not have happened at home. We were able to sit around together at meal times and laugh together about various things, like watching hair strands fight each other. Just spending time together as a group is a great benefit. I know retreats have been around for years and certainly aren’t new on the ministry landscape, but it’s helpful to see the value in the time spent there.