A few weeks ago we pulled off our first-ever Youth Winter Conference. I won’t lie to you when I say it was more of a success we would have ever thought. I have had people reach out to me asking what was it, how it was set up and what did we do so I thought I would just lay out a basic overview.

What was it?

  • Youth Winter Conference was Sandals Church Youth replacement of a traditional winter retreat. It was a 3-night event we held at our broadcast campus where we would bus in all of our campuses to one location for 3 nights in a row of a program and event after. We did it on Wednesday-Friday nights from 6pm-9pm).

How much did you charge?

  • We charged $59. which is a steal for what students get. Typically a weekend away is $200-$275 so we wanted to create a cheap way to have a retreat but still give the same vibes that a camp would build a ministry.

Why not do a typical DNow or conference?

  • Each night was from 6pm-9pm (10pm on Friday) and usually, the weekend would have you stay the night at places. We didn’t want to do that. 1) We have Saturday services so we wouldn’t be able to make it happen on Saturday and 2) I didn’t want to have to deal with logistics of finding places for over 800 students.
  • Since students went home every night and went to school the next day, they were able to talk about the event during the day and invite friends to come later that night for a discounted cost.

What did each night look like?

  • We wanted to make it super simple but effective and able to maximize the time we had. A typical night worked as such:
    • 6pm – Busses and students would start to show up. We had lobby games, snack bar, photo booths, and games happening.
    • 645pm – We had what we called the “Anticipation Stage” where we had some of our youth leads gather everyone outside the doors and get the crowd going with some games and giveaways. A fun way to build up hype before.
    • 655pm – The doors would open.
    • 7pm – We went into a fun, interactive video that would set up the night. You can check those out in the post I did last week HERE.
    • We would go into 3 worship songs.
    • Then into a quick crowd game and intro of the speaker that night.
    • One more song.
    • Message.
    • 1-2 response songs.
    • Dismiss to the event.
  • Each night had a different event:
    • Night 1 – Extreme Bingo (You can check that out for FREE HERE)
    • Night – Taco truck and inflatables.
    • Night 3 – Silent Disco.
  • When the event was over, we would gather everyone back into the main auditorium and dismiss by campuses once there ride or bus got there. It worked out really well.
  • Josh Griffin (from DYM), myself and our lead Pastor Matt Brown spoke.

Random thoughts and ideas of the event overall:

  • The busses were a hit. There is something about riding a bus as a group that brings people excited and gets people pumped up.
  • We had an option for students to pay for all 3 nights or they could do individual nights depending on schedule. the nice part about that is if they couldn’t do one night, they didn’t have to miss out on the whole thing.
  • Wednesday night we handed everyone an invite card where they can go to school and invite friends for $15 for the next nights’ event. That went awesome and every night we had more students sign up for one-day admission.
  • Everything was done in-house to keep the cost down. We had a great worship team from within our church and had volunteers run most of the stuff pre-post service. We thought about getting “big name” speakers but since it was just our church, my thought is students don’t know or care about “big name” typical conference speakers. Some might, but most don’t. I think we might keep that trend going in the future.
  • I loved the simple structure of the event. Because we had so many moving parts with registration and busses, it was nice to be able to do a simple, powerful and effective program.

We chatted a little bit more about this in the latest Youth Ministry Hacks Podcast episode. Click HERE to listen.

So there is the overview. Feel free to comment on any questions on here or in the comments on the DYM Group FB page.