teen group exerciseSuccessful youth retreats are about more than the packing and program. Knowing what to do and say before the retreat can have a profound impact on the success of the event.

  1. Make sure the participants know why they are attending the retreat.   All people, regardless of age should be clear in their understanding of the outcomes planned in the retreat.  People enjoy being successful and even if the purpose is as ambiguous as building a community with a closer relationship to God, each person will now how it feels to move toward that goal.
  2. Make sure expectations of behavior are clear.  I am constantly amazed at the inability of people around me to read my mind!  Often I am certain that the way I expect my family and others to behave is inherently understood, when in fact they had an entirely different image of the experience!  Be sure to explicitly state how you expect them to behave in the cabins, at meals, during gatherings and even in privately.  You can avoid many embarrassing moments for everyone.
  3. Make sure everyone meets each other either before the youth retreat or as early as possible before formal programming begins.  Nothing is more uncomfortable than walking into a room, not know many of the people and having no structure to meet folks.  Create a clever ice breaker as people enter the first gathering room.  Have a pre-retreat party, anything that helps participants get to know each other in advance.  Your program will move along much better as a result.
  4. Make sure the kids know about the retreat facility. Just as with business travel, retreat goers can spend days at a location without learning anything about the place itself.  When retreaters understand a bit about the history and mission of their host, they will have a deeper connection with the place and therefore, the program that brought them to the place.  There is clear evidence that more effective learning takes place when students are connected to the actual place they are learning.  Ask the host manager to share a few words before your first meal or some time when people are gathered and ready to listen.  They will love the place and you! 

Do you have additional thoughts about what it takes to hold a successful youth retreat?  Click here to share your insight on this topic with us!

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By Jaynie Schultz
Jaynie Schultz created Garrett Creek Ranch with her mother more than 20 years ago. She served as the founding Director of Sales and Marketing and is involved in many non-profit organizations and leadership development programs. Jaynie is the co-founder of www.retreatcentral.com, a free online retreat directory that lists hundreds of retreat centers nationwide.
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