Ideas for Planning a Meaningful Youth Retreat

Consider these tips as you plan with purpose

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Youth Retreat Bibles

 1. Pray and Define the Purpose

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably get there?” The first and most important step in planning a meaningful youth retreat is to set the vision by defining the purpose.

Questions to Answer:

  • Are you hoping to build deeper relationships within the youth group?
  • Is the goal to provide concentrated time away from busy schedules so youth can connect with God and grow?
  • Would you like to create a “greenhouse environment” for spiritual growth that will spur future development?
  • Are you hoping to create a fun experience so students will want to continue being involved in youth group once they return?
  • Would you like to focus on an opportunity for those in your group to serve others in need?

2. Recruit Assistance

The retreat will be as strong as the team that plans it. Use SignUpGenius to coordinate youth group parents and volunteers, so each person can use their gifts and skills to help in small ways that will pay big dividends.

Questions to Answer:

  • Who are parents, volunteers, or church staff with strong administrative and organizational skills?
  • Can you send out a sign up to families who are interested in the retreat which outlines all of the possible ways to volunteer to help with the planning?
  • Do you have a point person who will be willing to coordinate all of the volunteers, leaving you open to focus on the bigger vision for the retreat?

Coordinate Your Volunteers! See a sample HERE.


3. Select Your Location

Since you’ve already defined the purpose of the retreat, this step should be easier. Make sure to visit your top choices or talk to several people who’ve taken youth groups there before to see if your vision for the weekend can be met.

Questions to Answer:

  • What type of accommodations will fulfill your mission best?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you want to cook or have meals provided?
  • How many people will attend?
  • What types of meeting rooms and spaces do you need?
  • What recreational activities do you hope to engage in?
  • Have you been to the retreat center before, or do you have a lot of good recommendations from others?

4. Count the Costs

Make sure that the cost of the retreat won’t prohibit any of the youth from attending. If you lose interest from parents at the beginning with high fees, you won’t get it back.

Questions to Answer:

  • Have you taken a survey or learned from past years what a reasonable cost for the retreat would be so that participants in your group can afford to go?
  • Will you need to do fundraising?
  • If you need to do fundraising, how can you prevent the fundraising process from becoming all consuming?
  • Is the church or individual donors willing to offer scholarships for students who would like to attend but can’t afford the cost?

Collect fees or raise money using SignUpGenius Payments!

5. Invite the Youth

First impressions are critical. So put some pizazz into your introduction of the retreat to the youth group. Then, don’t let up. Continue to be creative as you invite and release information about the trip to students.

Questions to Answer:

  • Do you want to focus on deepening the faith of your core group or open the invitation to friends outside the church as an outreach?
  • What skits, games, or videos could you use to launch the concept and details of the retreat in the months before you go?
  • How will you build excitement for the retreat over time while releasing details in stages?

6. Make a Packing List

This one needs to be a group effort. If you’re a guy, it’s going to be hard to envision what the teen girls in your group are going to “need” once they arrive and vice versa. Work with parents and volunteers who have gone on past retreats to compile a list of must have’s.

Questions to Answer:

  • Can you divide your list into must bring and optional items?
  • Do you have a limit on how many bags/items each student can bring?
  • Is it possible that clothing will get ruined on the trip, or will they need specific types of outfits for different activities?

Enhance your small group discussions with these 20 Tips for Bible Study Leaders!

7. Give Parents and Students Proper Expectations

You’ll save yourself a whole mess of headaches if you’re proactive in this area. Recruit a detail oriented person to help compile information about the retreat and plan out how you’ll release it at the right times, so parents and students have information right before they realize they need it.

Questions to Answer:

  • How much sleep can parents expect their children to get while on the retreat?
  • What will the meals and accommodations be like?
  • What will be the schedule and the theme, and who will be the speaker for the weekend?

8. Follow Up with Everyone

This is one of the last steps to ensure a wildly successful trip. Even if you’re tempted to believe everything will go well, make sure your volunteers are double and triple checking all of the details well in advance of go time.

Questions to Answer:

  • In the weeks leading up to the retreat, are you checking in with all of your volunteers to make sure their roles are being fulfilled?
  • Have the details and dates of your stay been confirmed with the retreat center multiple times before your group hits the road?
  • Is the retreat speaker equipped with all of the information needed for the trip, and are all of his/her travel arrangements confirmed?
  • Do the youth and parents have all of the details they need to be ready to go with the right expectations?

It’s time to hit the road. You started the process by praying, and you’ve hopefully continued in that spirit throughout the planning. Trust that God is in control and cares more about His purposes for the retreat being accomplished than you do. And, finally, have fun! 

Posted by Angel Rutledge


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Posted by Ndibugom Nelson on Thu Jun 16, 2016 6:07 AM EST
Great lesson and really helpful. God bless

Posted by Brian Reilly on Fri May 17, 2013 4:14 PM EST
Very thorough planning outline, thanks for sharing! Was thinking of bringing our group to and I was wondering if you have any insurance insight to share for these types of trips.


Posted by Dan Rutledge on Tue Oct 2, 2012 4:50 PM EST
Hi Rod - thanks for writing and sorry for any confusion. You can set your sign up slots to be anything you want - not just volunteers. On the slots screen, you can create a sign up item called "Mission Trip" or "Mission Interest" or "Student Participant" and "Parent Participant" or anything that makes it clear what you are wanting people to sign up for. If you need specific help with your sign up - write us via the "help" tab at the top of this page and we can interact about your specific event without it being public for everyone. Hope that helps!

Posted by Rod Hocott on Tue Oct 2, 2012 4:29 PM EST
I want to use SignUp Genius for my youth to sign up for a mission trip but all I can find are places for volunteers. What do I need to do? HELP!!!!

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