Engaging the hearts and minds of your congregation’s youth in new ways and keeping their attention isn’t easy. While an overnight youth retreat can be costly, they make up for it by providing valuable and exciting experiences to young people. One of the most meaningful ministry options your church can invest in is an overnight retreat. Not only do they have a measurable, positive long-term impact on children overall, but at-risk youth also report that retreats serve as an encouraging environment where they feel supported.
Promote Spiritual Growth
Overnight retreats make an excellent addition to your congregation’s existing ministry. According to the Effective Camp Research Project by Sacred Playgrounds, in the months following a retreat, young attendees reported more significant engagement with Christian practices like attending church. They also demonstrated an increased agreement in the importance of belonging to their church or congregation. Not only do retreats strengthen youth engagement at church, but they also increase faith practices at home. A follow-up survey conducted 60 days after attending a retreat showed children’s faith practices, such as attending church, praying alone, and reading the Bible, increased following camp. Of the youth surveyed, 65% showed growth in cognitive belief, 57% showed an increase in faith relevance, and 54% showed growth in self-confidence. Through the promotion of more frequent conversations with their families about God and faith, overnight youth retreats can enhance the value of and promote spiritual growth.
Value for At-risk Youth
For youth with challenging home environments, an overnight retreat can be a welcome respite from their daily lives. In this case, at-risk youth are defined as individuals not feeling safe or happy at home or individuals who feel like they have to hide their true selves at home or school. According to young people who reported feeling unhappy or not supported at home or school, 90% said they learned more about God at a retreat. 82% agreed their faith was stronger after attending a youth retreat. At-risk youth attendees described the retreat as more supportive overall than their home or school environments. 77% of the youth from unsupported homes felt supported at camp often or always, compared to 93% of their peers from supported homes who felt supported and happy often or always. Interestingly, at-risk youth have a positive experience when a majority of their peers come from secure and supportive homes. Overall, an overnight youth retreat is a wholesome, positive place for the vast majority of children from unsupported homes and school environments.
Overnight youth retreats can have an influential and long-term impact on participants. Following their retreat, attendees received a survey about their experience. They named the first 2-3 words that came to mind. The most popular terms included fun (59% of all youth), amazing (11%), friends/friendship (10%), exciting (9%), and God (7.4%). Only seven individuals or 1.5% used negative words to describe their experiences. Based on the American Camp Association’s 5-Year Impact Study, youth retreat participants reported the most critical learning outcomes in their lives today were relationship skills, appreciation living in the moment, independence, responsibility, and appreciation for individual differences. As for memories, attendees to Refreshing Mountain Retreat and Adventure Center share on TripAdvisor to having a “wonderful, memory-making time.” Another reported, “the kids immediately responded to friendly leadership” provided by the guides. The experiences, skills, and memories children acquire at retreats often endure beyond their retreat.
Opportunity for Growth
Youth retreats are unique experiences that are distinct from other learning environments. Children can learn skills at camp that they don’t learn in the same way at school. Compared to school, retreats uniquely encouraged an appreciation for living in the moment, an affinity for nature, and a willingness to try new things. In a post-retreat parent survey, parents reported their children showed additional growth in leadership. 96% of parents agreed that “camp helped my child make new friends.” Additionally, 70% of parents reported their children were “different” after camp, mainly due to the increase in self-confidence and self-esteem. In a safe environment, children learn things that help them in school, when they attend college and when they obtain their first jobs.
Helping youth deepen their faith, and spirituality is a marathon, not a sprint. An overnight youth retreat is a valuable way your congregation can invest in your youth’s spiritual journey. Retreats are safe spaces for everyone, including at-risk youth, to embrace their faith, reconnect and make friends, and learn unique skills that serve them later in life. If you’re looking to inject some life and excitement into your youth ministry, Refreshing Mountain Retreat and Adventure Center is the perfect destination for your youth group.