So, this past weekend we had an incredible opportunity to run our first-ever Jr.High Spring Retreat.
We met at a camp just around the corner from the church and spent the weekend growing together as friends, and challenging one another to grow with Christ. It was somewhat of an experiment and I’ll just say, I’m already planning for next year’s retreat!
Here’s what we did.
– Friday Night –
An awesome chance to invite our graduating grade 8s, and any other student in the ministry that has been a part of the leadership team throughout the year. We played together, had a campfire together, prayed together for each other and for the rest of the students arriving the next morning, and we started things off with a challenge from John 10:10.
The theme of our retreat was “Survivor” (an awesome setting for team games). So our challenge throughout our sessions was to not simply go on “surviving” in this life, but to truly live the life Jesus came to give us, an abundant life! We had everyone that night write a letter to themselves. The letter said where they were at in their relationship with Christ now, and where they want to be, and what they can do to LIVE A LIFE that will make that happen. They sealed those letters in an envelope, not to be opened until September 1st.
– Saturday Morning –
For breakfast, we asked the leadership team to wake up early and help in the kitchen and setting up the dining room – what an amazing group of students we have with servant hearts!
By 10am the rest of the group arrived and we began our first main Session together. We went through rules, played a round of musical chairs, and had a skit performed by one of our 3 skit-teams formed on the Friday night. HILARIOUS stuff!
*Our challenge for the morning was to be more like the first church, that began out of people giving what they have for each other and sharing life together. It wasn’t built in buildings and from sermons and ministries, it was built out of people’s desire to be together as believers.* (Acts 2) This led to a great small-group discussion time talking about how people feel when they come to our church, our youth group, and how we can help make it a more welcoming place.
– Saturday Afternoon –
We started off the afternoon with a favorite game of ours here at SpringvaleYouth – “SQUAMISH” – basically, full on warfare. Trying to steal other teams’ tennis balls while defending your own and not getting your flag taken as you run into other zones. It can get a little wild…this time we had one guy leave with a broken nose. He did return later that night!
Lots of freetime and an epic Survivor-esque puzzle game filled out the afternoon. Since we ran this retreat over Mother’s Day weekend we had craft supplies out during freetime and encouraged each student to make a card for his/her mother to take home on Sunday. Most students actually did it I think.
– Saturday Evening –
At dinnertime we ‘punished’ 5 students that showed up late for the meal by taping their wrists to those of the person next to them…making it very difficult to eat the lasagna meal before them. Lots of fun.
After dinner we had an “Airband Competition” in which we assigned each group a song they had to perform to (as to their interpretation of the song) after a given practice time.
The song choices were; “What Makes You Beautiful” One Direction, “Firework” Katy Perry, “Hoedown Throwdown” Miley Cyrus, “You Belong With Me” Taylor Swift. The team dancing to “Hoedown Throwdown” took the grand prize! What an awesome event!
Session #2 began with a great time of worshipping together, and praying individually that God would reveal to each one of us what we are designed to do.
*The challenge for the night came out of Romans 12, that we are all parts of one body. We were challenged to allow God to get to know you, to introduce yourself to Him. Tell Him all the things nobody knows about you, and see what He reveals through that conversation about yourself. Then, as each student placed a Jenga piece they were holding on the tower we saw that each piece matters to the puzzle. You matter to God, you matter to the church, and you have a place within it that only you can fill* This led to a small group discussion about what specific talent each student brings to the group, or to the church. Awesome honesty in this.
The night wrapped up with a rainy campfire and late nights in each cabin.
– Sunday Morning –
Because of the style of the camp and our retreat, each team was asked to sign up for one meal to help prepare and clean up. In some ways this caused tension with students that didn’t show up, but for the most part it was a great chance to help make the weekend flow.
Session #3 had another skit from our skit-teams, making everyone LOL even though we were too tired to move. Then we sang together, including what seems to be the new anthem for our Jr.High, Phil Wickham’s “Beautiful”.
*The challenge for the morning was built on Jesus’ words, “love one another”. We talked about what the church truly exists for, and that is to build God’s Kingdom here on earth by loving God and loving Others. The question then is, how can we demonstrate love to those around us?* Our small group time was encouraging as students were asked to think of ways we can change the world around us this week by loving one another as Jesus commanded us to do.
The retreat didn’t end until 4pm, so we had lots of time to clean the camp together, play another wide game, and take all the points the teams had earned into a final auction for prizes.
Will we do this again? No question – ABSOLUTELY!
Do I encourage other groups to do a Jr.High retreat? Get rid of the “Lock-In”, put together a retreat, do it, now!
— Thanks to Simply Youth Ministry LIVE curriculum for giving the foundation for our teaching time.