The first thing to know about the retreat is not to panic. The material that we have for the retreat is put together in such a way that you really don’t need to worry about it. It’s all right there. That being said, here are some suggestions on the practical side of things to have a successful retreat. I’ll have another entry later with thoughts on the interpersonal dynamics (here it is) and how to have a successful retreat with that.
The basic goal of the retreat is to get them to think outside the box about what “church” is. The retreat has them practice the traditions of worship in non-traditional ways. Unlike a lot of the CnC curriculum which is really heady, the retreat is very kinetic. There’s a lot of movement, there’s a lot of doing stuff with their hands, building things, creating things. Many times they don’t even need to put words to what they are doing, so it really gets to a deep place in them. They may not have the vocabulary yet, but they are play-acting forms of worship to make it true to themselves.
The other goal of the retreat is to build group connections. As I said, I’ll have more about that in another blog entry. In the meantime, here are 5 suggestions for having a successful retreat.
1. Location, location, location The first choice is always to have the retreat off-site. A retreat center is great because they have places for people to sleep and eat. A camp is also great because they’re more used to having kids around. If that’s not available, try contacting other churches to see if they’ll allow you to use their grounds. Again, this should preferably not be in your town. So much of the value of the retreat is in the fact that you’re exploring somewhere different. However, if your church is the only option, then at least try to go to a different church in your town for the Friday night Archaelogical Dig. See if a church of a different denomination will give you the keys and an opportunity to explore a new space in the dark. Wherever you go, know that once you leave your environment, the retreat is going to have a bigger impact than if you stayed at church, just because it’s more of an adventure.
2. Gather material in advance There’s a whole lot of materials listed for the retreat. So along with the materials, make sure you give yourself enough timeto get everything together. Take some other stuff out of your schedule. Make sure people realize that this is not just the 48 hours that you’re going to be on the retreat, but that the prep time is part of the work too. However you can, try to thin out your schedule the week before the retreat to do the prep you need for the retreat, and also for you and your family. The retreat is well laid out, but it’s still a lot of work.
3. Chaperones I recommend one chaperone for every five kids, but with a minimum of two chaperones even if it’s a really small group. I also think it’s important to have both men and women chaperones, even if you have all boys or all girls. It just works better with the dynamics. Also, if you know your kids and you know that you need more or someone needs a one-on-one chaperone, get them.
4. Using CnC classes instead of the retreat material Like all of the CnC material, you can use what you need to use. If you’re running out of time in your program and you want to cover a couple of classes instead of the retreat, go ahead and do that. The kids don’t have to get this information.
5. If at all possible, take a day off afterwards! This is a “do as I say, not as I do” moment, but we’re talking a lot of hours with the retreat and a lot of time being “on.” You’re not even really taking a day off; you worked 4+ working days putting on the retreat with very little down time. So cut yourself a little slack and take time to sleep in and recuperate, if you can.
Again, I think the material in the retreat document itself is clear and easy to follow, so though you may be feeling anxious—heck, I’ve done this more times than I care to count, and I still get anxious—it’s going to be OK.
Even if nothing goes the way you plan, it’s still an adventure. Because you’re outside of the norm, you’re getting some inside group jokes, you’re having some silliness, you’re using your hands--those are the memories, those are the anchors to the church that you don’t build other ways. Somehow travel builds those connections in a way that nothing else does. If you get them there and back and they do stuff together and build some memories, you’ve succeeded.
As I said, more soon on the interpersonal stuff.
Also, if you have more questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.