If you haven’t realized it already, as a youth leader, you basically have the best resume ever.

You’re a professional social media guru, high school or middle school communicator, Tik-Tok-er, teen drama mediator, t-shirt designer, game announcer, herder of teenage sheep, volunteer recruiter, and here’s a big one . . . professional event planner.

When we look ahead at the calendar and see the words RETREAT staking claim to one our weekends, we can’t help but think, “can I really fit in professional event planner to my resume?”

The word RETREAT means both life-changing weekends for our students and leaders, but also countless behind-the-scenes hours of planning, preparations, and well, a lack of sleep. You come face to face with the constant tension of serving students, and while remaining healthy in your own life. (Because P.S. you still have to run normal services in the middle of all this!!)

So how do we plan and lead our own retreat without burning out? Let me suggest something to you . . . don’t do it alone. We can’t do it all, and we weren’t designed to.

Doing it all alone will leave us with little to give to our students and leaders when it matters most. So who do we ask? Who can we partner with to ensure the best retreat for not only our students but for us?

1. Partner with your church

It may sound silly, but there are people in your church who have had their lives changed on youth retreats. And while they may be too old to now attend, they still believe in this next generation and the power of retreats.

  • So invite your church to plan and lead with you.
  • Ask your volunteers to join a planning meeting, run a game, or design a t-shirt.
  • Create a sign-up list and send it to your parents asking them to help out at a meal.
  • Ask an adult small group to sponsor a student to attend the retreat.
  • Send a request for a photographer from your church to capture the weekend.

Asking others to use their talents and gifts to serve at a retreat will not only enable them to experience Jesus more, but it’ll allow you to be more present for your students.

2. Partner with local churches in your area

Odds are, the church down the road from you is planning a similar retreat. So why not do it together?

After all, some of your students probably know each other from school or they live in the same neighborhood. Partnering with other churches not only will grow your retreat team, but it’ll help you reach and connect more students with each other.

If you have the opportunity, ask another youth leader or speaker to communicate at your retreat. This allows you to have more time to balance everything during the retreat as well as introducing your students to more voices.

3. Don’t start from scratch

Our church used the Weekend Retreat from Orange Students for our last retreat, and it was like adding a whole person to our retreat team.

It’s like 40 hours of planning and creative meetings all in one USB! We had timelines to keep us on track, playlists, worship leader guides, four sessions that connect to one another, small group leader questions and activities, game ideas, post-retreat resources and more!

Yet the best thing about the Weekend Retreat was that it allowed us to personalize the weekend for exactly what our students needed most. We crafted the messages, discussion questions, and activities for our specific students.

And because we had a starting point for the retreat, we had more time to not only plan our retreat but focus on the other areas of our job that don’t stop during retreat season. Because we all know that just because event planner becomes part of our job, the other roles of a youth leader don’t go away.

So can we become a professional event planner while still juggling everything else AND not burn out? Yes.

Just because plan and lead your own retreat are in the same sentences doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. And to be honest, I’m not sure we’re meant to do it alone. So who do you need to invite into the retreat planning this year? Your church? Local churches? Use a boxed retreat like Weekend Retreat? Or all three? I promise you that inviting others into the process will change your retreat planning experience, ultimately allowing students to experience life-change for a lifetime at your next retreat.

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