A few years ago we were dealing with some issues among the young ladies of our group. I felt the Lord lay it on my heart to have a weekend retreat just for them. It didn’t actually take place until a year later, but it turned out great. We’ve had a total of three retreats so far and the girls are already looking forward to this year’s retreat.
There are three goals for the retreat: strengthen relationships between the girls, strengthen relationships between the girls and the female members of the student staff, teach and talk openly about issues that young ladies deal with.
I’ve tried something different on each retreat. Here’s what seems to work best with our group.
1. Stay in a lodge large enough to house your entire group. If you have to limit the number of participants then do so. It’s difficult to achieve unity and develop relationships when everyone is divided into hotel rooms and there is not a central place to hang out.
2. If you have a problem with cliques within the group plan an activity that splits them up and encourages them to meet others. It can be an icebreaker or a game that focuses on teamwork. If you stay in hotels or a lodge that has several bedrooms, put the members of a clique in separate rooms with people they don’t know very well. (But don’t reveal the rooming list until you arrive at your destination – it will save a lot of headaches!)
4. Don’t try to cram too much into the weekend. The format that seems to work best for us is 3 teaching sessions (or 2 sessions and a devotional prior to departure), one fun activity outside of the lodge and adequate free-time to play cards, games, etc.
5. Unless the girls are out of school on Friday, try to stay within two hours of home. This is precious time – you don’t want to eat it up with a long drive.
6. Use chaperones that you can trust and that the students feel comfortable with. You may have young ladies that share very personal and confidential things. Be sure your chaperones are trustworthy. I have used parents as chaperones, but only in cases that I knew their daughters and the other teens would not be hindered by their presence.
We try to choose topics that the girls seem to be dealing with at the time. Two years ago the topics were relationships (dating and friendships), modesty, and self-image. Last year’s topics were having a strong foundation and finding God’s purpose for your life.
With the right planning and preparation and lots of prayer you can have a powerful weekend that truly impacts the lives of the participants.