Firstly, a quick vocabulary lesson for the purpose of this post:
Retreats – often used by faith-based organizations to describe a weekend of activities, group talks and small group sessions focusing on a topic of personal or spiritual growth.
Camps – usually a week-long (or longer) experience with activities for personal growth. Some include a spiritual aspect if they’re run by a faith-based organization. They don’t automatically include camping (thank goodness!)
Residentials – a term I learned from the UK which can be any weekend or week-long (or more!) trip that involves learning new things, new experiences. It can be for youth council planning, spiritual development, etc.
Choose Your Own Adventure Books – If you’ve never read one of these books as a youth, pick one up – they’re great fun! You ‘are’ the person in the story making the decisions on where the story goes based on which choices you make.
So you might be in a swamp and hear a noise behind you. At the end of the page it will say ‘if you want to go through the swamp and ignore the noise, go to page 15, but if you want to turn around and investigate the sound go to page 35’. You choose your own adventure through the book and your own ending based on your choices.
OK, now onto the good stuff.
Planning a youth retreat, camp or residential can feel like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book, in that you might be able to pick one center, idea or activity and it will lead you down a certain path to a certain outcome.
Or you might choose a different center, idea or activity and end up at a totally different path.
Or you might start with one activity but it leads you down a different path than you thought it might.
But the benefit of this is that you have the opportunity to shape your youth retreat, camp or residential to fit the needs of your plan.
Starting to ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ begins by choosing what kind of youth retreat, camp or residential center you want to use, as this will determine how much planning you’re actually doing and what skills, if any, you are teaching.
3 types of planning centers may offer:
1. Fully Planned – They have all the activities available you could ever want to do. You just pick them out based on your needs and they provide meals, you just pay for the experience and plan a few late evening activities.
2. Partially Planned – These centers have quite a few activities to choose from and you can book them and participate in them as you choose, or you can you plan a lot more of the sessions and choose only a few activities. You might be in some sort of cabin or bunk situation and be required to do all your own cooking.
3. Not Planned – You can choose a location that allows you to simply sleep there and plan all your own activities. You might do all your own cooking and only use their venue for sleeping and meeting.
What you’re trying to teach your young people and what your budget is will help determine which type of youth retreat, camp or residential center you choose.
I’ve planned youth trips at all three types of Center and they all have their benefits – it really is just based on what you want to achieve.
Personally, when I wanted to really challenge youth to learn new skills and face some emotional issues, I’d choose a center that offered full activities and cooking, so that the focus could solely be on the emotional growth that I wanted them to achieve (which can be exhausting for everyone, so let someone else cook!).
Otherwise, you might want to do everything yourself which is great, but make sure you have a good team of volunteers to help out because it can be overwhelming.
**We’ve now published a book to help anyone planning a youth retreat. Find out more about How To Plan A Youth Retreat here**
Question: Which adventure will you choose for your next youth retreat, camp or residential? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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