I can feel it coming in the air tonight! And I don’t mean Phil Collins or even Mike Tyson doing an odd punching dance to that hit song. (And quite frankly, you shouldn’t even get that reference.)
Every time the weather changes I do two things: 1. I smell candles at the Yankee Candle store. 2. I miss fall retreats.
I can’t really explain it, but there was something magical about going to a fall youth group retreat as a teen in Massachusetts. Something about it being cold and being able to see your breath feels holier than a Spring retreat. I simply find thick sweaters and items made of down to be more holy than tank tops or skorts.
And now that we’ve entered October, churches across the country are getting ready to take teenagers on fall retreats. In preparation for that, kind of in the same way that the Nashville airport uses country stars to give you public service announcements over the intercom, I thought I would give you a public service announcement today about fall retreats. (Next time you fly into Nashville, you’ll hear them. “This is Garth Brooks, please don’t pet police dogs, they will bite without mercy.)
Here are 19 things every fall retreat needs:
1. A bonfire
Church retreat fires come in two sizes: 1. Too small to generate heat to even roast a marshmallow and 2. Large enough to be seen from out of space. (Expect people to confess things around the fire too, campfires make Christians 87% more honest.)
2. A rival youth group at the same location
Nothing says, “worshiping God on a retreat,” like a rival youth group you can pull pranks on who happen to be renting the same facility you are.
3. A bullhorn
Every youth minister I’ve ever met has owned a bullhorn. I think they must give them out with their diploma at seminary.
4. A wild card guest speaker
Will he swear? Will he do some message illustration that involves whipped cream? Who can tell, he’s the wild card, a youth speaker brought in from somewhere else to knock out the retreat like the Wolf in the movie Pulp Fiction. I hope to one day play this role as a speaker.
5. The guy who brings his acoustic guitar.
“What? I didn’t even realize I had this on my back. Want me to play one of the three songs I know? Oh ladies, if you insist!”
6. Something confiscated.
Not sure what this will actually be, but during the retreat, at least one thing should be confiscated. A cell phone that should have been turned off, a bag of fireworks, some sort of woodland creature caught to be placed in the girls’ cabin. Take your choice.
7. The girl who under packed.
“Wait, what? This is October? All I have is shorts! Instead of wearing something warm, I’m going to walk around the entire weekend blowing into my hands and telling you how cold I am. Brrrrrr.”
8. The van that breaks down on the way there.
Churches tend to spend more on designing their website than they do on keeping their vans fireproof. (Did I just namedrop a Kirk Cameron movie?) If you’re going on a fall retreat, expect to be on the side of the road at some point at least 3 times. (This is not to be confused with the “cool van.”)
9. A location that closely resembles the set of a horror movie.
If the place you hold your retreat doesn’t look like a wooded/haunted abandoned campground where an ax murderer may or may not vacation, you’re not trying hard enough.
10. Someone who fears they will die without the Internet for 48 hours.
Oh the torture. The torture! Someone is going to complain about being cut off from humanity without the Internet. Tell them what they are experiencing is called “the year of 1996,” and whole countries managed to survive without the Internet.
11. A conflict with the year’s best college football game.
This might just be a Southern thing, but without fail, but youth group retreats always happen on the same weekend as the best college football game of the season. I’m sorry, but I bet this year you’re retreat will conflict with the Auburn vs. Alabama game.
12. The Saturday Night Cryfest
You’re going to cry on Saturday night. Go ahead and accept that. It’s happening. Your emotions will get going and before you know it, as my friend Tyler says, you’ll be right in the middle of “sloppy agape.” Count on it.
13. The Good Cop/Bad Cop youth group leaders
What a twosome! Every retreat needs a youth group leader that everyone loves and then one that everyone is afraid of. Assign the bad cop to the pastor’s kid. We need it, I promise.
14. The hot seat
No retreat is complete without an incredibly awkward moment where each teen sits in a chair in the center of a circle and everyone else tells them at least one compliment. Such a sweaty good time.
15. At least one moment to “go be by yourself.”
Every retreat I ever attended had this moment. It usually coincides with the cryfest. The minister tells you, “Think about what we talked about tonight and go sit somewhere by yourself for a while.” And then you do, and something horrible happens.
16. People who throw stuff away out of guilt.
Music, movies, magazines, start a bag labeled, “Things I’m getting rid of on the retreat, but might purchase again in four weeks.”
17. Somebody who tries to “make purple.”
There’s going to be a few people who try to sneak off and make out. This is not a maybe, this is a definite. (Here are 11 ways to prevent it.)
18. At least one sprained ankle.
Count on this.
19. The Youth Minister thrown into a body of water.
At Centrifuge at Gordon College in Massachusetts, they had the most disgusting pond I’ve ever seen in my life. And for some reason we always threw our youth minister, Kurt Andre, in it. Find a body of water on the first night you arrive at the retreat and then start planning.
That list really needs a 20th item, doesn’t it? I mean who has ever heard of a 19 point list? That’s ridiculous.
What did I miss?
What did you love about fall retreats?
Have you ever been on a fall retreat?