Fall retreats have changed my life, both as a student and as a leader. They promote concentrated time away from home where students can build relationships with peers, adults, and God. It’s a time where discipleship is jump-started and students can set a tone for the entire semester.
I wish that every student could get to a fall retreat. But as we know, retreats cost money, and often times a lot of it. Even with budgeted transportation, cheap t-shirts, free climbing walls, and a family discount; some families still can easily owe a few hundred dollars, maybe even a few times a year. Not to mention the rise in costs for many camps, pushing over $75 for one night or close to $120 for two. We have to find ways we can help students and families get to camp, especially if we know that their life will be changed at least for a semester, if not for an eternity.
Here are a few ways I have found can keep retreats affordable for families:
•Budget yearly for half scholarships: Although many families can’t afford $75 for a one night retreat, most can afford $35 or $40. By budgeting a few hundred dollars in the yearly youth budget, you may be able to help 5 or even 10 students get to a retreat.
•Asking for scholarship monies on registration forms: Leading a youth ministry is hard enough, not to mention doing it with a minimal or deficient budget. After talking to a couple families this past year, many were willing to donate an extra $10-$20 to help other students get to a retreat. Try adding: “Are you willing to donate toward the retreat scholarship fund so another student can grow at Fall Retreat?”
•Ask donors to help: There are many youth volunteers and people in your church that would love to see a student’s life changed at fall retreat. Just ask. Lead with the possible outcome and what the student will experience. If you tell an empty nester couple that $75 could help a student know Christ, be part of a community that will help him grow, and otherwise wouldn’t have this opportunity, you may be surprised how they want to help!
Lead all these ideas with the why. Why are you doing a fall retreat? Why should students go? Most people in your church want to see students know Christ and find a place to belong. As you plan this year’s fall retreat don’t forget the students you are planning for and ways to help them get there.