If you are planning a youth retreat, you may be brainstorming ways to get everyone involved in the experience. Casting a wide net of activities is a great way to ensure good participation. Although, keep in mind that not everyone is alike. Each attendee will have a varying level of comfort that should be considered during the planning process.
Some attendees may feel anxious in a big group activity, while others thrive. There will be guests that enjoy acting silly and being in front of the group. Whereas some are more conservative in expressing themselves and feel very awkward playing silly games. A mixture of big group activities and smaller breakout sessions is a wonderful way to include everyone in the retreat.
However, don’t be alarmed if you notice that there are some kids that are still not participating. Even the best planned events are going to have attendees that may not participate. The reasons behind the lack of participation can vary. This may be their first overnight retreat, they could be homesick, not feeling well, etc. With that being said, it is a good idea to designate a few older youth to be mentors. These mentors can be your eyes and ears within the group. They may even be more equipped to intervene because they can relate to what their peers are going through.
It is important to keep in mind that your view of lack of participation may be skewed. Everyone is wired differently. In a worship service, you may have some attendees that are outwardly energized and visibly worshiping. This is great and reassuring that the worship service is being enjoyed, but it doesn’t mean the person standing quietly is not participating. He or she may be participating inwardly as much as the person that is outwardly expressing praise. Within a group, you will have a mixture of extroverted and introverted participants. Your extroverted kids are going to be energized by the group and their participation may be more visible. The introverts in your group may be quietly watching and reflecting in their own way.
Try not to get bogged down by your view of what participation should look like. Sometimes, the person who you think didn’t get anything out of the retreat, actually leaves with the most meaningful experience.