Seven Things I’ve Learned About Running a Winter Youth Retreat

(1) Forget about sleep. Students love late nights, and wee hours yield transparency. Make yourself available and you’ll forge new friendships. But don’t torture yourself by hoping for rest. That’s what van rides are for (unless you’re driving).

(2) Schedules matter. Students want to know what’s next. Schedule event time and free time. Action and togetherness. Gym time, quiet time, events time, and late night lodge time (bring board games!). Make a major deal about certain things, but not everything. Change it up.

(3) Run assembly lines. Eighty students and ten adults means 250 pieces of luggage. When you get there, back in, line them up, and assembly line the whole mess straight into a common area. They can sort it out from there in a bigger area than the back of a trailer.

(4) The girls get the nice quarters. Plenty of toilets and most of the showers. The guys will shower when they get home. Maybe.

(5) Be intentional with God time. Schedule 30-minutes of it every morning. Plan your sessions around it. Pray about it for weeks in advance, and get people praying while you’re there. And if you want soul searching, don’t yuck it up every minute. Sobriety is not a bad thing.

(6) Ban romance. Except for one breakfast. As a surprise.

(7) Tradition is huge. As stories pass from one year to the next, they become legends. The 3:00 Football Game. The Saturday Night Banquet. The Skit Competition. The Guys Writing Poems for the Girls. It’s all the stuff of Facebook pictures.