I have heard the following questions from meeting planners lately: "When my ministry is seeking to make the most out of the retreat, do we even have time for extracurricular activities?" "We're really trying hard to cut costs so we're only spending money on the essentials for our retreat this year." "It’s not that going on retreat isn't important to us... Our real concern is how do we get the most out of our retreat without overspending?"
As you're planning your group's retreats, regardless of the state of the economy, or whether or not your budget is tight, start by assessing your goals and objectives for the event. Take time to pray for guidance from God for your event as a whole and specific decision your planning team has to make. Survey your group members, find out topics that they would like to hear in services and small groups. Do they feel connected to the group, do they like icebreakers or do they think those kind of games are lame? What is the most memorable thing about previous retreats?
For example, let's say you survey your youth group and find out that especially the 6th graders want to spend some time getting to know the other students. Sounds like some get-to-know you games might be important... But the students also think that icebreaker games are kind of lame because they have played the 'go around the room and collect signatures from people who have brown eyes' game a dozen times. From talking to students who attend retreats at our properties or team building event, that's probably a somewhat common response. It might be time for a new approach and creating an event budget around some of these extras would be worth it. At Lake Williamson we have several team building courses and programs to facilitate a group through. Our team building facilitators use your event goals in their instruction and education!
In every event that you plan, be intentional. If one of your goals is to create stronger communities in your youth group then plan events that will help you achieve that goal. For example, your youth group goes to the beach, be sure that while your students are at the beach that all of their counselors are there and playing along or at least watching. In these informal times and extracurricular activities the foundations for relationships are laid. Later, when your students are presented with an altar call or are have questions during small groups they have already started building trust with the counselor. Don't let moments like playing a board game in the café or basketball in the gyms pass by because those are opportunities to start relationships that are going to count later.
Use the information you know about your group, surveys from potential attendees, and your event goals to dictate the schedule of events. There isn't a one size fits all agenda. Create a balanced event between meeting, worship, and play. Remember to give what you would consider less-important schedule items like meals, night-time wind down, and transition times plenty of attention in the schedule so your attendees not only have time to recharge but during these informal times are when meaningful connections happen.
While planning an event at a Christian Retreats Network property our planners will assist by providing all your amenities packaged at one convenient rate per person. We have a no surprises policy. This is in-turn allows planners to add some additional activities to their event knowing they're going to stay within budget. Need a budget tool? We've got a free one available for download here.