Designing WOW! Into Your Camps and Retreats

What a tremendous time I had with the students of North Highlands Baptist Church. Our CLOSER weekend was designed around what every youth ministry wants; students getting closer to God and to each other.

Some retreats focus on one of these aspects and hope for the best with the other. Each of these are important. Jesus said,

Love the Lord your God with your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

We want kids to come closer to God, to surrender their hearts the The One who can change everything. Students spend far more time with their friends than in “retreat mode” so why not design a retreat where students can grow closer and more empathetic towards each other.

You can plan a retreat or camp or you can design a retreat or camp. Planning involves making sure you have key elements games, worship, etc. Designing includes those aspects but also includes how you want kids to walk away from that camp or retreat.

“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” Milton Glaser

WOW! is what we should shoot for in designing our retreats and camps. I design my messages with WOW! in mind. My WOW! may be in the illustration I use, the slides, the humor, the altar time or all of the above in some aspect. Not thinking about how to make WOW!, in some way, is to short change our students.

I’m not saying we have to figure out how to make the pizza we serve for Friday night dinner WOW! I’m saying that we should look over every element and decide if it could be WOW! or is it just a yes. Pizza is yes. Camp fire after pizza, that’s WOW!

Building WOW! into your camps and retreat is a lot like building an ice cream sundae.

The core of your sundae is the ice cream. It should be creamy and flavorful. For camps and retreats, the core is the theme, the messages the altar time and sometimes the speaker. The theme should be attractive and eye popping. The messages are the flavor, the taste of the weekend or week. It’s what going to fill up ur students and leave a good taste in their mouth.

Next could be the bananas, if it’s a banana split. This could be the style worship you choose or the song lists. It could also be the games you play.

On top of that is the chocolate or caramel sauce and whip cream. This could be the way kids check in or that you are giving them retreat journals to keep all week. This could also be your t-shirts.

Finally, you add the sprinkles or/and nuts and a cherry on top. For me, these are last minute ideas, like the awards I gave out to the winning team at the Closer Retreat. It cost me a few bucks and a trip to Wal-Mart, but it was worth it.

There was another time where I bought a couple of swords at the flea market to give to some young men God put on my heart to give them to. I had preached on David the Giant Slayer and I gave these young men swords to signify their call to slay their giants as well.

These sprinkles and cherries are also Spirit-led moments. Moments you prayed for, moments you could not plan for like kids sharing a testimony of what God did for them that week or a special connection a leader makes with a kid who had been unreached.

God is the God of WOW! If we’ll keep our sundae in order, the affect will be a holy and delicious experience.

If I can bring some WOW to your next retreat or camp, drop me an e-mail at [email protected] or fill out the connect form.

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