I don’t mean to retreat for five weeks. What I’m actually talking about is breaking every rule in my youth/young adult ministry playbook and planning a retreat in five weeks. And don’t be confused, it’s not that I’m doing that. I’ve already done it.
We’d done a winter retreat a couple years ago. It was okay. We had an acceptable turn out for our group and had a good time. I taught on the Sermon on the Mount. This year I’d thrown out the idea of another winter trip to some of our students. I didn’t actually want to do it. Not that I didn’t want it to happen, but I just didn’t want to do it. Not to mention that I didn’t think it would go well. I’m actually not sure why I said anything.
Then… about 6 weeks before the trip (late November), a group of core students who are away at college and a couple of core students who are here decided that they liked the idea and tried convincing me that we should go. At that point, I really began to regret bringing it up.
I told them that I’d look into it and if the right circumstances fell into place, we’d go. But I also reminded them that if in 5 weeks we can only get 10 people to this thing, they all had to be committed to making it happen still. They said they were. Then, after a week or so of investigation, the “right circumstances” fell into place and we launched into full planning mode. It took us the whole first week to publicize the thing. The next couple of weeks we saw an unusual and encouraging amount of interest from both the “away” college students and the folks who were home. I was getting excited and was preparing to teach on our identity in Christ.
Then, just about the time of Christmas, it looked like the excitement had waned and that our numbers would be below average. I wasn’t totally disappointed though, because I never thought this thing was going to go well in the first place. I was just readjusting my level of excitement to what it had been a couple of weeks earlier. No problem.
You just never know though. I’m happy to announce that the retreat ended up exceeding my expectations. People were literally signing up (and dropping off) up to the last day before the trip. We ended up with a good number and had a great weekend. We taught on identity and some students who I’ve been discipling were able to share testimonies and lead small group discussions. In all honesty it ended up being one of the better college ministry retreats I’ve been a part of. It’s nice to stand corrected.
I’m not suggesting a new model of “five week” retreat prep like that’s the way to go. I’ll hopefully never do that again. But it serves as a reminder that God can do things in the least ideal of circumstances and that ministering to college students/young a
dults can always surprise you. Now I have to figure out if we’re going again next year!