Are you in charge of planning a summer retreat for your church or perhaps serving on a retreat planning committee? Whether it's the 1st retreat you've helped to plan or the 40th, the challenge always exists to make each retreat better than the last—with a fresh theme, new activities, and an equally compelling speaker.
As you're brainstorming ways to make this summer's retreat exciting, we have a few ideas that you can add to your idea bank. It doesn't matter if you use one or all of them, your goal should always be to create meaningful and unforgettable experiences.
5 impactful elements you can incorporate into your summer retreat
Prayer seems like an obvious thing to do at a Christian retreat, but there are so many ways that you can integrate it in uncommon and extraordinary ways.
For instance, you can . . .
- Plan a prayer walk - Instruct your attendees to walk around the retreat campus. Before setting them off, give each one a map or list of specific prayer requests and praises associated with key areas around campus. Participants aren't limited to the list nor do they need to pray alone. It's simply an opportunity to pray intentionally with others about things other than themselves. Here's a step-by-step guide to setting up a prayer walk—of course, you'll need to make adaptations to fit your specific situation and location.
- Organize prayer stations - Prayer stations can provide an opportunity for attendees to respond to God, meditate on His word, and connect with the retreat message on a deeper level. Set up 5-8 stations throughout a room or specified area and instruct participants to follow the instruction at the station (e.g. pray for spiritual insight, write a letter of encouragement to a friend in need, read Proverbs 3:5-6 and meditate on it, etc.). See how Cyndee Ownbey, a ministry leader, set up prayer stations for a Ladies Retreat.
- Set up a prayer wall - Encourage attendees to write down prayer requests and praises on a small piece of paper to pin (or staple, tape, hang—you get the idea) on a prayer wall. Your prayer wall could literally be an indoor wall or something creative like these examples on Pinterest.
Drama is an effective way to demonstrate and teach the truths of the Bible in a way that people can easily understand. Drama engages more senses than just hearing, thus increasing worshiper participation. Difficult subjects can be handled tastefully and sometimes even humorously with great effect.
Have you ever considered—
- Inviting a drama ministry team to perform? Believe it or not, there are Christian drama teams that exist, and some whose purpose is to travel to retreats, conferences, summer camps and other places to present plays, pantomimes, human videos, skits, dramatic readings, and more. They're committed to sharing Biblical truth through performance art. Here's a DRAMA Ministry worth checking out.
- Performing a drama set to music or a song? This takes a committed group of people to pull off, but the result is powerful. You can search for a sample video online. If you find one you like, locate the song on CD or Spotify and teach the movements to your team. Or, better yet, you can choose a song that resonates with your church and create your own movements. Here's an example of a high school drama team performing "Arise, My Love."
- Preparing several short sketches or a short play to use throughout the retreat? There are many wonderful scripts out there—search DramaMinistry.com for scripts on almost any topic, including monologues and reader's theatre (when participants read from a script; it doesn't require sets, costumes, props, or memorized lines). You can open sessions with light-hearted skits or find some that go with the theme of the weekend.
Learning from the lives of others is insightful and eye-opening. In this case, learning from those who devoted their lives, or a portion of their lives, to caring for others and sharing the Gospel. There are many famous missionaries, but digging deeper can reveal many more unsung characters.
Here are a few things you can do to highlight influential missionaries during your retreat:
- Adopt a missionary family. For the weekend, adopt a missionary family (or two) who are currently serving in a foreign country and talk about them and their ministry throughout the course of the retreat. At the end, take up a donation for them or put the money toward a particular need they have or a project they're working toward.
- Invite a missionary to speak. Ask a current or former missionary to present on their life experience or an overview of their missions service—what it was like, lessons learned, challenges conquered, etc. Or, if you know more than one missionary in the area, schedule a Q&A panel. Having a panel gives people an opportunity to ask questions as well as to hear from seasoned missionaries.
- See it for yourself. Although released in 2005, End of the Spear, is a film that's still relevant today as it captures a defining moment for 5 missionaries, their families, and a primitive tribe in Ecuador. Watching this film together should provoke important questions about faith and God's love for people.
4. Acts of Kindness
Plan acts of kindness that groups, couples, or families (depending on who the retreat is for) can do together to show God's love to others. Keep it simple and fun. Who said serving others shouldn't be enjoyable?
Acts of kindness could include—
- Picking up trash - Plan a trash pick up day. Send groups around the community to clean up parks, parking lots, or low-income housing developments.
- Offering free carwashes - Set up a carwash. All you need is a water source, buckets, a cleaning agent (dishwashing detergent like Dawn works great), and towels. Offering it for free may leave people wondering, "what's the catch?" When that's the case, let them know it's simply an act of kindness—an opportunity to show God's love to others.
- Giving out bottled water - What's better than a cold bottle of water on a hot summer day? Not much. Go for a walk then stop at a park; offer water to anyone who passes along the way then set up a small water station at the park to hydrate kids and parents—and anyone else present.
If you need more ideas, RandomActsOfKidness.org is spilling over with them.
5. Team building opportunities
Create opportunities to build unity—it could be through team building or problem-solving exercises.
Try these out on your retreat attendees—
- All Aboard - All Aboard is a team-based challenge, where a group has to fit inside a defined space marked by masking tape, bricks, large stones, or anything at your disposal, really. The first team to accomplish the task wins. If you want to take this game to the next level, make the space smaller and have the teams try again.
- Road Race - In this fun activity, the team has to build a road for a toy car using only the provided materials. The team whose car travels the furthest wins the game. Gather up a mix of unique and practical materials and have the teams go at it.
- Scavenger Hunt - This throwback idea can never be outgrown. Make a list of things to find ahead of time and a time limitation. There is no set path for groups as they scavenge around in search of the items on their list. The group who finds everything on the list first or finds the most items before the time is up wins. A simple Google search will give you a ton of scavenger hunt lists you can use.
The possibilities are endless. But, if you'd like to browse more team building options, here are 60 more.
If you'd prefer to leave the event planning to someone else . . .
Bring your church group to one of our pre-planned retreats! Before you or your event planning committee puts in the effort and time to plan a weekend-long event, explore our year-round retreats including those for women, men, couples, seniors, youth and families!
Whether you prefer to work with Sandy Cove's team to plan your own church retreat or you'd like to bring your group to a retreat planned by Sandy Cove, we can help you! To learn more, click on the option that most interests you.