As the mountain of work that it takes to pull off a winter retreat stares down at you, it’s an annual question that makes you wonder — is it worth it?
I believe it is! In fact, I think you should take your students on a retreat that includes youth groups from a variety of places! I understand there are some great upsides to hosting a retreat that includes just your youth group, and I am not suggesting you shouldn’t find time to do that at some point during the year. However, I think that in the wintertime, you should attend a retreat with multiple churches in attendance.
Here are three reasons why:
The winter is the mid-point for most students’ academic year, and the experience of being with other students who are following Jesus can be a powerful one that will encourage them throughout the rest of the year.
I can remember being a student in high school and being deeply impressed by worshiping with hundreds of other students my age, instead of the couple dozen that were in my youth group each week.
Another reason you should take your students to a multi-group retreat is for the messages, which will have a different flavor. The core of the content will be the same as what you teach at your youth group, but the way it’s presented—the style, and even the language—will be different enough that it may reach students on a level they didn’t even know existed.
As someone who speaks at camp a lot, I often hear from students after a message. Many times, they share how powerful the message was and how they made some sort of decision. While I think there are several factors that contribute to students making decisions at camp, one of the most powerful ones is found in just the many ways that we are different.
I have talked to some leaders who work hard to avoid this. Understandably, they have worked hard to carefully craft messages for their students and don’t want to risk the damage that could potentially come from an outsider. I would suggest that often this fear is generally unfounded, and in scenarios when a speaker does say something that you don’t agree with, many times the conversation after the fact is more impactful than anything else.
In my 3 1/2 years at Bible college, I can recall exactly one chapel message. It was one where the speaker used some controversial language. But what stuck with me and caused the chapel to be so memorable wasn’t the language, or the speaker—it was the conversation afterwards in our youth ministry classes. I still think back to the conversation often when I am preparing to speak.
I would suggest the greater risk is having a student in your youth group that doesn’t resonate with you or your teaching team’s style and never gets the chance to hear from someone else that may be uniquely equipped to speak directly into their world.
3. Life Change
Lastly, I want to suggest you bring your students to Word of Life Snowcamp! I know, I know. #ad. But, seriously—at Snowcamp, our camp counselors are Word of Life Bible Institute students, which gives them a unique perspective and intense passion for the gospel. Not only will they keep track of your students for you all weekend and supervise them while they want to stay up until 1 AM, but they will also take advantage of their role as counselors to have spiritual conversations and help your students take the next step in their daily walk with Jesus Christ.
A weekend at Snowcamp has the potential to impact your students for the rest of their lives. Doesn’t that sound like an investment worth making?
Tommy Sewall is the director of Word of Life Youth Camps in Schroon Lake, N.Y. He has been in leadership there for the last 11 years and has been involved in camp ministry for 18. He and his wife, Britney, have a son named J.T., and enjoy spending time on the lake in the summer and at the mountain in the winter.