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11 mins

Growing Friendships – Retreat

Watch kids’ relationships blast off on this retreat taken from Group’s book Jr. High Retreats & Lock-Ins.

A healthy garden requires daily care. Fruits and vegetables must be planted and nurtured. Weeds must be pulled. Watering must be timed and measured. Friendships need the same daily care. Trust and genuineness must be planted and nurtured. Weeds of frustration and fear must be uprooted early to keep them from damaging the friendship. Conversation must be measured and timed to meet the needs of the moment. This retreat encourages junior highers to see their friendships as gardens and to invest themselves in growing healthy ones.


During this retreat junior highers will:

  • experience how talking begins and enhances friendships
  • memorize Psalm 119:63 and name ways to live it
  • discuss ways to break down friendship barriers
  • list ways to build friendships
  • affirm each other with friendship-building statements
  • identify and exterminate friendship bugs
  • give examples of friendship fruits

Supply Checklist

  • background music
  • stereo
  • 3X5 cards
  • tape
  • newsprint
  • ice cream (optional)
  • ball of yarn

“Food Crisis Scavenger Hunt”

For each person you’ll need:

  • Bible
  • wooden block or brick
  • permanent marker
  • paper cup full of potting soil
  • seed
  • brownie
  • pencil
  • tin can
  • handouts
  • envelope

“Worship Crisis Scavenger Hunt” handouts:

  • Paper
  • live leaf
  • jar of water
  • masking tape
  • green posterboard

For every two people you’ll need:

  • scissors
  • clear glass bowl of water

Retreat Preparation

  • Friends With Friends of God-Write each word of Psalm 119:63 on a separate 3X5 card and scramble the order.
  • Saturday’s Sealed Orders-Read Daniel 1 and pick out truths you most want your kids to grasp. Write these truths straight from scripture with random words left out. Write all the verses on one page photocopy one for each person and seal copies in separate envelopes.
  • When the Going Gets Rough-Set up the two scavenger hunts by photocopying both sets of clues cutting them apart and placing them in the locations indicated on the clues.
  • Friendship Bugs-Cut out a super-size leaf from green posterboard.
  • Enjoy the Fruit-Fold pieces of paper in half. Write a question’s number on the outside and the question on the inside of each. Kids must “flip them open” to answer the questions.

The numbered questions:

  1. Who’s speaking?
  2. How do we show we love Jesus?
  3. How does verse 12 apply to friendship?
  4. Give two examples of how you love your friends.
  5. What is the greatest way to love according to verse 13?
  6. What does Jesus call us? Why?
  7. What is Jesus’ command? On a scale of 1 to 10 (10=best) how well do you obey this command?
  8. Tape the questions to a wall.

    • Sharing With Friends – Photocopy and cut apart the “Share Deck.” Prepare enough so every pair has a complete deck.

    The Retreat

    Session 1: Plant Your Friendship Garden

    • Moving Circles – Arrange equal numbers of chairs into two circles one inside the other. Face the chairs in the inner circle outward and the chairs in the outer circle inward. As junior highers enter direct them to sit in one of the circles.

      Say: Tell the person seated across from you about a topic I’ll introduce. Then listen to that person tell you about it. I’ll tell which circle goes first when I name the topic.

      Between topics have kids each find a new partner by playing music and having kids in each circle walk in opposite directions and sit when the music stops. Use these topics: Time of day I do homework; what I like to read; what I want to accomplish someday; a person I really admire; my favorite food; something I like that others don’t like; my favorite sport; what I like best about church; and what I like best about retreats.

      Say: The first step to beginning and keeping friendships is talking. We’ve practiced this with these sample topics.

      Ask: What else do you talk to new friends about? to people you already know?

    • Friends With Friends of God-Introduce the theme verse for the weekend by displaying it in scrambled order one word to a card: “I am a friend to all who fear you to all who follow your precepts” (Psalm 119:63).

      Challenge kids to put the verse in order using their Bibles but without talking. If you have a large group make several sets of the verse cards and challenge teams to finish before the others. After kids succeed have them repeat the verse in unison. Remove one word after each repetition until the group recites it by memory. Congratulate their memory skills.

      Ask: How does being a Christian make friendship more likely? Is the way people live as important as what they say they believe? Why or why not? Suggest that talking is one way to start friendships.

      Ask: What other actions plant seeds of friendship? Have kids each share one obstacle that keeps them from planting friendship seeds. Write each obstacle on a brick or wooden block. As each one is named have kids build the bricks or blocks into a wall.

      After the discussion give kids each a brick or wooden block from the wall and a marker. Have them each write how to overcome the obstacle on their brick. When everyone is finished have kids each read their obstacle and advice. Have kids use the “advised” bricks to build a bridge instead of a wall.

    • I’m a Friendship Planter – Ask: Is it easier to let someone else start a friendship with you or to do it yourself? Why? After several share gather everyone in a circle and whisper this “telephone message” to one person in the circle: You are a friendship planter. People want to know you.

      Have kids each whisper the message once to the person on their right. Ask for the message when it gets to the end. Tell kids your original message. Say: This truth gets jumbled in real life too. Many of us doubt that anyone wants to be around us. But God created you and God doesn’t make mistakes. He wants to bring out the unique and special you in your friendships.

    • I’ll Plant Friendships- Ask: How could you begin or build a friendship during this retreat? Have kids each answer beginning with “I will build a friendship by…” As kids share give each a paper cup full of potting soil and a quick sprouting seed such as an alfalfa sprout bean or pumpkin seed. Instruct kids each to plant their seed as a symbol of friendship. Have kids each write their name on their cup. Tell them they’re responsible for nurturing their seed during the weekend and after they go home.

      Close with prayer asking God to help kids build healthy friendships.

    • Trust Games
      Play games that encourage trust between people. For example do a trust walk: One “seeing” group member leads someone with eyes closed on a walk outside. The closed-eye person must trust the seeing partner enough to keep his or her eyes closed. See Group Growers (Group Books) for more community-building games.

      After the games ask: How easy was it to trust? How did your partner earn your trust? betray it? How many of you opened your eyes? Why? How important is trust to friendship? What actions and attitudes build trust?

      Cabin Devotions: Friendship-Planting
      After kids are in their bunks invite them tell stories of how they began and grew friendships with others. Especially if the friends are present encourage stories that’ll help them feel good about being befriended. Tell the story of David and Jonathan’s friendship and how they endured its trials (1 Samuel 16-21).

      Ask: How did David and Jonathan plant seeds? nurture them? How are our friendships similar to David and Jonathan’s? different?

    Sealed Orders: pencil and an envelope containing their “Sealed Orders.” Challenge kids to fill in the missing words.

    Session 2: Friendship Fertilizing

    • When the Going Gets Rough – Ask: How are your plants doing this morning? In response to frustration that not much is happening yet. Say: Just as it takes time to grow a plant it takes time to get to know and understand a friend. Gradually building the strength of friendships gives you power to handle the hard times. A fellow named Daniel and his three friends faced two opportunities to affirm or deny their faith and their friendships one of which was life-threatening.

      Form two teams. Send one team on the Food Crisis Scavenger Hunt and the other team on the Worship Crisis Scavenger Hunt.

      Say: I’ve placed clues around this room. Follow them to discover how Daniel and his friends handled their crises together.

      Give each team its first clue. Instruct kids each to take their Bible paper and a pencil with them. Emphasize that because there are two scavenger hunts kids need to make sure they find clues that match their hunt. When everyone is finished review their answers to the Food Crisis Scavenger Hunt.

      Ask: Why didn’t Daniel want to eat the king’s food? How did he get the courage to speak up? Why did his friends eat different food also?

      Say: Friends can help each other through rough times and give each other courage to do what’s right. That’s positive peer pressure.

      Ask: When has a friend given you courage to do what’s right?

      Next, review kids’ answers to the Worship Scavenger Hunt.

      Ask: How did the friends’ experience concerning the king’s food affect their actions in this situation?

    • Friendship-Building – Have junior highers each write their name on the outside of a tin can using a permanent marker. Have them attach their cans to the wall with masking tape.

      Say: This weekend fill each can with friendship-building statements and actions. For example you might give encouragement by writing the way you see a friend stand up for Jesus this weekend. Put at least one friendship-builder in every person’s can.

      Keep paper for notes near the cans. Make sure you and other adult leaders add a note to each can.

    • Friend Demonstrations
      Allow kids about an hour of free time.

      Say: During your free time find something that symbolizes or demonstrates friendship. You may not destroy anything to bring it back. If you can’t bring it we’ll go with you to see it or have you describe it.

      After an hour call kids together and have them each explain their symbol.

      Session 3: Bug Treatments and Weed Whacking

    • Friendship Bugs – As kids enter give each a sheet of paper and pencil.

      Say: Sometimes pests get into our friendships. How can we get rid of the bugs without killing a friendship? Have kids each draw a bug on their paper then write a description on the bug of something that eats away at friendships such as jealousy. The description could read “My friend gets jealous when I talk to someone else.”

      Hold up a super-size paper leaf as junior highers tell about their bugs. Tear off a small section as each bug is shared.

      Ask: Why do these little bugs have such power to destroy friendship? How can we recognize them before they do damage? How can we repair damage once they attack?

    • Exterminate the Bugs – Collect the bugs and shuffle them. Give each bug to someone besides its creator. Form pairs.

      Say: Work with your partner to write a TV or radio commercial for an insecticide that would keep your bugs from attacking your friendship. Choose friendship actions from Romans 12:9-21 to help you get started. When teams are ready have them each perform their commercial.

    • When I Bug Friendships – Say: Sometimes we create our own friendship bugs. We do things we can’t believe we did. We say things we don’t mean. We get shy about saying what we want to say. We have trouble loving like we want to.

      Give junior highers each a section torn from the super-size leaf. Have them each write on it something they do that eats away at friendships.

      Say: Let’s take our bug-infested leaf sections outside where they belong and release them where they can do no more harm. Guide kids to throw away their leaf sections.

    • Turn Over a New Leaf – While still outside focus on group friendships by asking: What bugs threaten our group’s unity and happiness? What do we do to tear our group down rather than build it up? Why do we need each other’s friendship? Give kids each a live leaf and a marker and have them write on the leaf actions that could promote friendship in the group. Collect the leaves and display them in the meeting room in a clear glass bowl filled with water.
    • Session 4: Harvesting the Fruits

    • Enjoy the Fruit – As junior highers enter give each a pencil. Have kids each walk around the room and write an answer based on John 15:9-17 to each of the seven questions you posted on the wall.

      After everyone is finished take the questions from the wall hand them out and have kids read aloud each question and its answers.

    • Fruits of Friendship-
      Ask: What do you think the fruits are in verse 16? Suggest that the verse 16 fruits might be the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

      Say: Choose one of the fruits from Galatians 5:22-23 and tell how it enhances friendship.

    • God and I Are Friends – Point out that teenagers each are capable of loving like Jesus once they let Jesus live in them. Give kids each a Bible and have them look up John 15:12-16.

      Say: One at a time read aloud John 15:12-16 with your name inserted for every “you “he” and “his and Jesus’ name inserted for every “I” and “me.” If your group is large have kids read the passages to each other in small groups.

    • A Web of Friendship – Say: Now let’s demonstrate our love for each other with a fun activity. Have kids form a circle.

      Hold up a ball of yarn and say: I’ll throw this ball of yarn to someone who’s been a friend to me during this retreat and tell how he or she has been a friend. That person will then throw the yarn to someone who’s been a friend and tell how. We’ll continue throwing the yarn until we’re all connected in a web of friendship. Monitor the process and watch for kids who may not be getting the ball as often as others. Toss to them when your turns come.

      Ask: How is this ball like friendship? Like group closeness? Have kids each cut a piece of yarn to keep as a reminder of their unity with the group.

      Sharing With Friends:
      After a brief stretch break have kids arrange the chairs in twos. Direct kids and adult leaders each to sit in one of the chairs across from a person of their choice. Place a “Share Deck” on the floor between each pair.

      Say: Between you is a deck of cards. On “go turn the top card over and complete the statement. Talk as long as you want on that topic and then put it at the bottom of the stack and turn over another.

      After five minutes have kids find new partners and repeat the process. After another five minutes call everyone together and ask: How is this like making friends? What new things did you learn about one of your partners? What did you enjoy about this experience?

    • Cabin Devotions: Friends Forever
      As kids settle into their beds invite them each to share a problem they have with a friendship and how they think God wants them to solve it. Don’t allow anyone to share a problem without a possible solution. Discourage kids from using names. Encourage kids to read Proverbs 17:17 and Romans 12:9-21 for solution ideas.


    Closing Worship

    Have kids bring their plants to the closing worship. When everyone has arrived ask: How has the seed changed since you planted it? How do these changes parallel friendship? What dangers did your plant encounter? How do these dangers parallel friendship?

    Give kids each a permanent marker. Have kids each write a friendship verse such as Proverbs 17:17 on their plant’s cup.

    Say: Every time you see your plant compare it with your friendships and think about how you’re nurturing them. Challenge kids to recite Psalm 119:63 from memory.

    Say: Just as you plan to take steps toward closeness in your personal friendships take steps to make this group a closer and more friendly one. Give kids each a 3X5 card and a pencil. Have them each write their name on their card. Collect the cards shuffle them and redistribute them to the group.

    Take the group outside and say: Find an organic item such as a leaf or a flower that represents something you admire about the person named on your card. For example if your person is an encourager you might find a branch to show how the person “supports” others in the group.

    Tell kids not to damage any living plants while gathering their items. After five minutes call everyone together and have kids each share their item with the group.

    Say: We all bring special qualities to the group that together make up a unified living organism-the church.

    Close with prayer asking God to equip kids to grow a close group.

    Retreat Schedule
    8 p.m. Session 1: Plant Your Friendship Garden
    9:30 p.m. Welcome and Rule Reminders
    10 p.m. Trust Games
    11 p.m. Cabin Devotions: Friendship-Planting

    8 a.m. Breakfast
    8:30 a.m. Sealed Orders
    9 a.m. Session 2: Friendship Fertilizing
    10:15 a.m. Friend Demonstrations
    Noon Lunch
    1 p.m. Session 3: Bug Treatments and Weed-Whacking
    3 p.m. Free Time
    5 p.m. Clean Up for Supper
    6 p.m. Supper
    7 p.m. Session 4: Harvesting the Fruits
    8:30 p.m. Sharing With Friends
    10 p.m. Cabin Devotions: Friends Forever

    8 a.m. Breakfast
    8:30 a.m. Closing Worship
    9:30 a.m. Hit the Road!

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Growing Friendships – Retreat

Get free weekly resources from us!
Get free weekly resources from us!
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