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How to Plan the Next Youth Retreat with Confidence

How to Plan the Next Youth Retreat with Confidence

A Guide for Student Ministry Leaders

Logan Bailey

Discipleship Pastor

Peace Church

Published On:

November 10, 2023

It came quick. This year’s Fall retreat is just around the corner. Questions fill your mind: Did you forget to sign a contract with the camp? What will your registration process look like? How will you transport everyone? The trip has so many logistical details to sort out, so how are you ever going to find time to write the retreat teachings?!


Each year there is a retreat that is your responsibility to plan (or maybe multiple) and each time you feel overwhelmed. You dream of a day when it comes easy to you, but that day seems far away. Here is the good news: there is a way to plan a retreat with joy and confidence! My goal in this article is to share what has been most helpful to me in doing so. What you need is a “planning guide” for your retreat.


A Guide to Building Your Guide

In simple terms, a “planning guide” is a to-do list mixed with a jigsaw puzzle. More precisely, it is an annotated checklist that guides you as you plan and coordinate an annual retreat or trip. A planning guide is a guide to your planning. With a planning guide, you are empowered to plan a retreat without haphazardly tackling random tasks and avoid the dreadful feeling that you have forgotten something. Below are the steps to craft such a checklist.


First Step: Consolidate a List

The first step is to make a list of everything and anything that a retreat requires from you. This list will be sloppy but will be comprehensive. Don’t hold back anything! Think through any task you’ve ever done or seen someone do in preparation for a retreat. Give yourself at least a half-hour to prayerfully write down all the tasks you can think of. Before moving to the next step, consolidate the list by removing duplicate or contradictory tasks.


Second Step: Add Deadlines

Now, take your list and put it in chronological order. Use bolded headers to categorize your tasks by deadlines. Some deadlines might be by month (“Tasks to Complete in August”) or by week (“Tasks to Complete Five Weeks Before), and so on. Imagine this is like putting each task in a box. In an ideal timeline, you will go week-by-week opening each box according to its deadline and tackling those specific tasks. You are giving each task a specific deadline.


Third Step: Polish

The final step is to do a round of edits. Comb through your checklist and make sure everything is actually something you need to do and that nothing contradicts. You can always edit this planning guide (and you should, as you realize ways to enhance it), but sometimes we don’t notice errors unless we take a step back for review. After this, you’ll have a master checklist that will help guide you as you plan your next retreat!


Helpful Tips and Final Encouragement

Don’t think too highly of your memory by skipping things that seem obvious. Include every to-do you can think of, even the obvious things. Also, consider breaking up the large items into smaller steps that are spread out (turn “write a manuscript for your teachings” into multiple smaller steps that span the entire planning guide).


Creating a planning checklist may feel needless to some, but only to those who neglect organization and forward-thinking.


The strength of a planning checklist is that you are basically acting as a consultant to your future self.


Now go and plan this retreat prayerfully, knowing that your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

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