When the CRN team discusses adding on an adventure challenge program to a planned retreat, the most common objection is “We don’t have enough time.” On the surface, this objection makes total sense. CRN properties already offer more activities than guests can take advantage of in a single weekend. Why carve out 1-8 hours of retreat time for an adventure program? However, when you dig deeper, the obvious question becomes, “How can we not find time to do an adventure program?”
Adventure Builds Memories
Feedback from group leaders tell us that CRN’s adventure programs rank as the single most memorable part of many retreats. While guests speak positively of the recreation offered at our properties, special praise is reserved for our adventure programs. It is quite common for our program directors to hear, months later, comments like, “The kids are still talking about the experience.”
Lake Williamson’s adventure programs enjoy a high return rate from its groups. Recently, I was working with a church that has been using our programs for four years. As we finished afternoon high ropes with a closing discussion, one of the women talked about her progression over the years. Three years ago, she would not even try the course. Two years ago, she did half the course, then quit. Last year, she completed the full course, but was terrified. This year, she finished the entire course with confidence. For her, the high ropes course was more than just a scheduled activity. It had become a personal challenge to overcome and a memorable measure of her growth. Several other participants echoed this woman’s story.
Adventure Builds Community
Several studies have shown the time spent in adventure programming has lasting value in creating community, promoting group cohesion, and reducing feelings of isolation. In today’s busy world, only 41% of church attendees are satisfied with the level community within their church.[i] Adventure programs are proven to help reverse that trend.
During my fifteen years in adventure programming, I have had many leaders tell me about the changes they have observed in their groups after an event. Pastors have seen more unity in their leadership teams. Youth pastors have watched fringe kids become fully engaged participants. Teachers have perceived and nurtured leadership skills that had previously gone unnoticed. None of these moments would have occurred without groups choosing to spend a little extra time and money on their retreats.
Adventure Creates Learning
Most educators agree that the lecture method of teaching is the least effective. Some people are auditory learners, and some people are visual learners, but all people are experiential learners. When you look at the ministry of Jesus, he spent time preaching to the masses. However, in his work with the disciples, he spent time creating learning opportunities. Jesus told Peter to lower the fishing nets one more time, and then called him to be a fisher of men. He fed 5,000 men, and then connected it to the disciples’ lack of faith. He cursed a fig tree, and then used that experience to teach on the importance of prayer.
It was a hot, muggy July day. I had group of teenagers trying to balance themselves on the “Whale Watch” element. Most of them had already told me they wanted to be at the beach, not on the low initiatives course. Still, they had good attitudes and they pressed on, despite the heat and the mounting frustration over not finding the solution. Suddenly, a teenage boy blurted out, “I finally understand what Pastor Josh has been talking about all year!” For seven months, week after week, this boy had heard his youth pastor preach a sermon on the same topic, but it was not until that moment of experience that the boy connected the preaching with his life.
Adventure Prevents Boredom
One of the quickest ways event planners “kill” an annual retreat is by scheduling too much unstructured free time. Those huge blank spaces in the event schedule can lead to boredom that prevent participants from coming back the next year. There are two things to consider here. First, the average teenager spends 9-hours per day using an electronic device.[ii] This means that today’s youth do not know how to manage free time. Second, the average, non-athletic high school student spends roughly 200 hours a year in his school gymnasium. This means that free time in the gym is not a special experience. Put these two considerations together, and free time, for many youth, means sitting on the sidelines looking at their phones, rather than engaging in something meaningful.
Adventure programming provides a structured, quality use of time that is both educational and fun. I absolutely love finishing a full-day program with the statement, “Well, we started this experience seven hours ago.” There is always an outburst of surprise when I say this. The time has passed so quickly that participants had no time to get bored.
Your retreat time is valuable. Maximize that time with an established program that allows your group to build memories, community, learning, and fun. Talk to your CRN booking agent today about how an adventure program can become the highlight of your retreat.
[i] 2007, January, Barna Research Group