About this time of year around the country, youth groups are getting ready for and pastors are planning for winter retreats. They can be going this weekend or all the way up until March in some places. I know us at HSM, we are headed up in February for our Life Groups Winter Retreat. I just began laying out and planning this trip a few weeks ago and let me just say, I’m already really excited about it. As I have been doing so, I have been thinking about some of the reasons why we do a winter retreat and why we intentionally make it different than anything else we do on our weekend services or even our summer camp. I thought I would list a few thoughts below and why and how I am going about planning our winter retreat.

Life Group Required: We make it so you have to be in a life group to go. Why? Because we believe every student should be in one period. This trip is more a discipleship retreat and we do discipleship by doing life groups so we encourage our leaders to go and take their groups. If a student is not in a life group, they can sign up to be in one and they will be placed in a group at camp and they can finish out the year with them in that group. It’s also a great way for adding any students who are on the fence about joining. Who doesn’t like the mountains?

Limited Spots/Limited Time: This is not like winter camp where everyone gets to go. We want to intentionally make it smaller and more intimate. We take less than half of what summer camp takes. I also want this to be something that students are excited about and if they know spots are limited, the camp will fill up faster. It is also half the time of summer camp which means half the price as well. It’s 3 days and 2 nights of wintery awesomeness.

Discipleship Focused: Because our winter retreat is designed for life groups to come, it is intentionally different than our weekend services and our summer camp (which are for friends and designed for new or non-believers and are for our students to invite friends too). There are more teaching sessions and they are more challenging than we would normally do (because they are geared for students who are already believers and wanting to dive deeper into their faith), there are more and intense quiet times and times of reflecting, more times of response during the message and worship. Even worship is a different style. On the weekends and at summer camp, it’s a full band (and they are unreal) but at winter camp we do an acoustic setting and it makes it a little more intimate. We want to make it completely different experience than anything else we do.

Student Lead Workshops: One of the mornings, there will be a shorter session and teaching because we allow 6 workshops lead by some of our student leaders. These students are picked based on their leadership abilities and passion for serving and ministry and they get to lead a 20 minute workshop of their choosing (as long as it goes with the theme of the camp). The rest of the students will then be able to choose 3 of the 6 workshops and they will rotate throughout the morning.

Fun – We want fun. Fun breaks down walls. I think if you were to have awesome quiet times set up, plus being able to have fun with your group while playing in the show and playing dumb games before the sessions, it allows some pretty amazing conversations during the cabin times and times where students are in a place to talk to their leaders and peers around them. I mean it’s a camp, fun is a must!