Retreat Response Ideas
One of the key parts of retreats is creating an opportunity and space for students to respond to the work that God is doing in and through their lives. Throughout the years we have approached the response portion of retreats in various ways.
There is always a physical aspect to the response whether that be raising their hand, standing, coming to the front, going to their small group leader....but at times there has been an additional tangible aspects to the response. Adding an additional tangible piece to the response adds intentionality to the decision that has been made.
Here are a few ideas based off of things that we have done as part of our response time at retreats.
WRITE IT OUT:
For this we had the various response statements painted on several large boards throughout the worship center. Students were encouraged to go and write out their name and decision under the corresponding board.
This idea (main picture for this post) was a play on backstage/all-access passes that people may get at a concert. There were three cards that corresponded with a response statement. They were;
- Powerfully Rescued: Jesus died in my place for my sin
- Totally Focused: When I focus on God other voices are silenced
- Unlimited Trust: My challenges are limited my God is unlimited
We even brought this response piece into the Sunday morning session by giving each student an "Unrestricted-Access" pass that said "A changed relationship with God is possible because I have access to God"
This one took a little bit of legwork during the actual retreat but it was well worth it as the response was both powerful and personal. On Saturday morning during breakfast we took a picture of every student at the retreat. Our small group leaders helped make this happen as we dismissed them by table to four designated areas (broken up alphabetically) throughout the cafeteria to get their photos taken.
After pictures were taken we loaded them all onto one computer (still broken up in folders by last name) and ordered a 4x6 of each of them from a local Walmart. We placed four separate orders in order to make sure the envelopes of pictures we got from Walmart we're still broken up by last name. After the photos were picked up and brought to the retreat some of our volunteer crew took the time to hole punch each photo at the top before placing them on four separate tables (you guessed it, by last name) in the worship center.
That night when a student made a decision they went to their designated table, grabbed their photo, and placed it on a board corresponding with their decision. Doing the response this way made it far more personal and especially powerful as we were able to literally see all of the students who had come to know Christ as their Savior.
A simple yet powerful response that we have done a few times is that of total silence for 30 minutes. After the message, our communicator would get up and set the framework for what the time would look like as they encouraged and challenged the students to truly embrace the opportunity to sit in silence and commune with God.
We'd send the students out to the large public spaces provided by the campground (ie game room, cafeteria, gym...) and have them spend time reading, praying, and writing. We'd provide pens and sheets with questions, Scripture, and other directions to help students make the most of that time.
It was always eerily encouraging as hundreds of students silently exited the session and spread out throughout the camp to spend time with God. And it was all the more powerful when they silently entered back into the session to continue to respond in worship. Needless to say, it got pretty loud.
WEAR IT OUT:
On several occasions our response portion has included giving the students something to wear that corresponds with the focus of the retreat holistically or individual pieces that correspond with one of the response statements from the message. For example at our 2018 middle school winter retreat we made up three different "WWJD" style bracelets that had the response statements on them. Those statements were;
- New Life in Christ
- No Longer in Darkness
- Change the World
Students took one bracelet based off of their decision. To help with the follow-up on their decision our small group leaders gave students a week-long devotional we created that focused on that particular decision. For our students who came to know Jesus as their Savior, we gave them a copy of the "Know God" devotional from Orange.
Throughout my years at Woodside we've ran over 25 retreats for middle and high school students. These are just some of the ideas and I'd gladly share more details on how to best execute them, tweak them for your context, or talk about some of the others ones we've done.
More than that, I'd love to hear what you've done as you've looked to create space for students to respond to the work God is doing in and through their lives!