Fall Retreat: From the Other Side

A couple weeks ago I posted some thoughts on our upcoming middle school retreat. Our Fall Retreat has come and gone, and I’m happy to say that it was a wonderful time. It wasn’t perfect, and there are things I would change if I could go back, but it truly went well.

After I had processed through some of the thoughts in my previous post I made a decision to further loosen the free time on Saturday afternoon. Essentially, we gave students the entire afternoon “off” from programming. We brought a bunch of board games, one student brought string and beads, and we just spent time together. Some of us spent time playing on swings, or walking around the beautiful paths that wound through the camp. Some of us played chess, while others made bracelets, and others walked a prayer path. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I was a little concerned that students would be bored.

What I find so interesting, however, is that this time is one of the most talked about aspects of the retreat. Leaders loved the freedom to be with students, and all the students I’ve talked with so far enjoyed the opportunity to simply enjoy themselves, relax and experience God in the moment. Lest I misrepresent things, please don’t believe that the entire afternoon was some kind of spiritual experience for every student. It wasn’t, at least not in the sense we normally think of when we think of spiritual experiences. But it was a time to rest, a time of sabbath.

Once again, it wasn’t a perfect retreat. There are several aspects of the retreat I think could have been tweaked to improve it further (and by improve, I mean help students connect with God and one another at deeper levels). But the best decision I could have made was to set aside formal programming and simply allow all of us to be with one another. After I have some more time to process I’m sure I’ll have more substantive thoughts on what could have been improved. But for the moment, I am extremely pleased to have had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of the retreat just chilling with some of the most amazing middle school students on the planet.

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