A couple of weeks ago we took 100+ students & leaders high up into the Sierra’s, near Lake Tahoe, for one of our favorite events of the year, our annual winter retreat – “Winter Escape!”
We had been praying into & planning this event for several months with the goals of seeing our youth have a winter blast in the snow, connect with each-other on a deeper level & encounter the love & power of Jesus in a way that would impact them for the rest of their lives! By the time it was all over, God did more than we could have asked or imagined as we saw many students come to Christ, set free, empowered by the Spirit, called into ministry & awakened to passionately live for Jesus! We even saw a high school guy who broke his wrist sledding one afternoon, completely healed that night during pre-service prayer!! C’mon Jesus!!
One of the key ingredients to why we had such a successful winter retreat this year was that we strategically implemented small groups to be part of it! Having seen the powerful effect small groups have had on our church & youth ministry, as well as being part of an incredible small group community Smallgroupchurches.com, where we have received great small group coaching, we knew we wanted to effectively implement small groups into our youth retreat as well. We sought wisdom from some of our best friends & mentors in youth ministry – Tyrone & Amy Rinta, veteran Youth Pastors in the great Northwest, who have had success implementing small groups into their youth retreats. They shared with us, how strategically implementing effective small groups right before each service could exponentially increase the results we desired to see! We used a simple, yet powerful curriculum they had compiled that came with several attention-grabbing-object-illustrations & then tailored it for our ministry. Then, after doing some small group leader training before & during the retreat with our team, we waited expectantly for God to do the rest! Here is what we saw God do in our youth ministry in & through our small groups which enabled us to reach our spiritual goals for the retreat…
1 Deeper Unity
We divided our students by gender into Middle School & High School groups with each led by an adult leader & assisted by another leader or mature student leader. It was awesome to see students who had never connected with each-other before, now bonding with new friends as they joined together in community for 3 small group sessions throughout the retreat. It was equally amazing to see our leaders bond with our students as they had the quality time needed to actually get into their worlds & pastor them throughout the retreat! The result was a much deeper unity than our youth ministry has ever experienced before! Our leaders enjoyed leading the small groups so much that we are going to build off this momentum by launching new small groups in our youth ministry!
Powerful things happen when people come together in “One Accord!” The unity that God brought through our small groups created a greater spiritual hunger in our students that was the catalyst for the powerful worship sessions that we experienced after! Why? Students had not only just connected with each-other & laughed together, but they opened up on a much deeper level by reading the Word together, talking & asking questions about God as well praying & even crying together! The result was a huge spiritual momentum boost! Powerful things happen in a “Service” with musical worship & preaching that you just can’t replicate anywhere else. However, the same is true of small groups – there is a community, intimacy & openness that you just can’t find anywhere else & the result is an overall greater spiritual hunger that will flood over into your worship gatherings & every other part of your ministry!
We encourage you to implement small groups into your next youth retreat & you will see greater results than ever before!
– Derek & Julie