The Necessity of Winter Retreats

As Youth Workers, we should always be able to explain our “why.” To be more specific, we should always be ready to give an account of why certain events made our yearly calendars. In my context, we use our mission statement to vet everything we do. If a certain idea or event doesn’t pass the filter of our mission statement…

…we don’t’ do the event.

Most recently, we dropped our Summer trip to Six Flags because it in no way, shape, or form helped us live out our mission as a student ministry. While we originally thought it would be a great time of fun and community building, we realized that we were nothing more than a glorified taxi service. When we got the theme park, students scattered to the wind and we were only able to hang with a few students at a time.

I’m almost positive that EVERY youth ministry should have some sort of winter retreat or camp.David Hanson
Look at your youth ministry calendar. What event on the calendar do you struggle to justify? Work your way through the calendar year and critique every event.

I just did this with our winter retreat, which we call Disciple Now . It passed with flying colors. Not only did it pass with flying colors, but after pulling back the scope, I’m almost positive that EVERY youth ministry should have some sort of winter retreat or camp.

Here’s why.

While we just celebrated the New Year, the students in your ministry do not identify New Years Day as the beginning of a new year. For a student, the New Year started in September when school began. So in January, while adults are busy making absurd resolutions for what the coming year holds, teenagers are hanging their heads exhausted that the second semester is about to swallow them.

Your students are literally counting down the days until Spring Break and the last day of school. January is not a new year, but a reminder that one is only halfway finished with the school year.

Enter Winter Retreats.

Winter Retreats serve to…
  • Remind students they are on mission at school.

  • Get students reengaged with the support of their gospel community.

  • Help students experience the power and presence of God.


“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”Isaiah 40:28-31

This is precisely the message that students need to hear as they begin their second semester. Students need to be reminded that their strength comes from the Lord; that His desire is that we fall back on His strength and wisdom in times of trial and exhaustion.

This is the WHY of winter retreats and this is WHY winter retreats are a necessity.

Header image provided through Creative Commons and by photographer Nathalie Gouzee.

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