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Learning and Living on Retreat

Learning and Living on Retreat

Snow is flying and the temperatures are freezing… there’s no doubt, it’s retreat season again. For nearly 15 years now, I’ve had the privilege of partnering with various youth leaders as they prepare for another student ministry winter retreat. I imagine if you’re anything like them, you’re either finding yourself busy gearing up for the upcoming snow camp weekend or still trying to recover and convince your leaders that next year they will get more sleep.


Winter retreats always seem to be one of the biggest annual events in student ministry. It’s that one weekend every year that students talk about, anticipate excitedly, and actually sign-up for before the very last minute. Here at Arrowhead we have the privilege of experiencing that big event with a different ministry, every weekend for months. It’s a privilege to see God at work in the lives of young men and women as they draw away from the distractions of their everyday lives and give focused time to Him.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why are weekend retreats such a huge impact on the lives of my students?”

Is it the food? It’s really good, but still it’s camp food. Is it a dynamic speaker? Last time I checked, I’ve been giving the same message on Wednesday nights for the last six months. Could it be the whirlwind of activities or the tradition of broomball at 1:00am? There’s a long list of possibilities – everything from snow football to small group discussions to the bottomless supply of hot cocoa on tap all weekend.


I heard it said that God does amazing, life changing things on retreats… because it’s one of the few occasions when people take the time to do the things God calls them to on a daily basis. It’s when we stop, rest and listen to God. Retreats may be very busy, but they are also a place where we carve out time and space to be with God.

We get intentional with how we order our thoughts, steps, and time.

If that’s true, maybe retreats really shouldn’t be all that special. (Yeah, the diehard camp guy just said that.) In fact, I say it all time.

We don’t breathe fire, juggle chain saws, bungee jump from helicopters or bring in Tim Keller to speak for the weekend. We change the trash when it’s full. We serve hot food that tastes great. We try to embody a sincere smile and a servant’s heart. It all feels pretty ordinary.

And what do you do? Small group times, singing, praying, share meals together, play games, read scripture and spend time investing in the lives of your students. It’s all pretty normal stuff. It’s the stuff that our relationship with God should be made of every day.


What does it look like to translate that kind of intentional living on retreat into the day-to-day living of your students and leaders?

As you debrief from your recent retreat or gear up for the big weekend ahead let me challenge you with a few thoughts and questions that might get you thinking:

Thought: Winter retreats are full of routines, relationships and disciplines that God calls us to on a daily basis.

Question: How can you connect your students with the God they meet on a weekend retreat when you return home, during the week and year round?

Thought: Carving out time and space in our lives to be with God and hear from Him is a healthy rhythm.

Question: How do you carve out that time and space during other student ministry events?

Thought: Retreats are intense shared experiences. Leaders and students share new routines and rhythms together. They are Living on Retreat.

Question: How do you teach and disciple your students to live shared experiences at home, in school, at church, with their friends and their family?

Thought: Retreats create a natural environment for Soul Care. At its core, a retreat is simply – leaders (and students) inviting students to Live on Retreat with them… to spend time with God and in His Word together.

Question: What other environments do you and your leaders create to care for the souls of your students?

I trust your winter weekend retreat will be an amazing time for your leaders and students. I pray you enjoy every moment of living on retreat together. No doubt, it will also be a wild and crazy weekend. If you do decide to bungee jump out of a helicopter or breathe fire for as a teaching illustration, make sure you get permission slips signed and send me video.

Ben Myers
Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp
Ben Myers has served as the Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp in Brackney, PA for the past 13 years. Arrowhead is a ministry committed to discipleship through its programs for adults with developmental disabilities, missions opportunities for youth groups, and mentoring of High School and College students. Ben also teaches as an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and holds degrees from Cairn University and Baptist Bible Seminary.
  1. Dave Martin02-11-15

    a great reminder…thanks Ben