Bringing It Home

Most of us have had the experience of a weekend youth retreat. In addition to coming back tired and worn out, we come back excited about the work God did in our lives and in the lives of our students. We are exhilarated by the enthusiasm for Christ our students are exhibiting. We are convinced that change has occurred, and that this change will reverberate through our youth ministry. And that’s really where we want to be. We don’t just want to bring our students home, we want to bring the change home.

On Labor Day weekend, many of us were together for an awesome weekend retreat called ADVANCE. This back-to-school retreat saw many students making commitments to become Campus Missionaries and recording a goal for this school year. I was very pleased with the outcome of the retreat, and most youth leaders I’ve spoken with were equally enthused. Now we have to bring it home.

Let’s talk about bringing it home. First, a few realities:

  • You can bring students home. You can even bring changed students home. But you can’t bring the retreat home. The band, video, lighting, and general retreat-environment will stay behind.
  • Students will expect to maintain the spiritual-emotional high they experienced at the altar. Can we blame them? But in reality, we weren’t designed to maintain such a euphoric state. Our body, mind, emotions, and spirit are affected by the ebb and flow of our environment.
  • Not everyone in our youth ministries experienced the retreat. Some groups just had a few of their students in attendance, others had a majority. Regardless, there will be some who missed out on what the others experienced.

Now, let’s work on bringing it home:

  1. Explain the difference between emotional impulse and spiritual commitment. If students calculate what happened at the altar as an emotional high, the results will only last as long as their emotional state. Recognize that emotion is a part of the decision making process, but that a spiritual commitment is not dependent on an emotional state. We may no longer “feel it,” but our commitment is still important. A good example of an emotional roller coaster in scripture is Elijah, whose manic-depressive journey 1 Kings 18-19 speaks to us all about the fragility of human emotion and the steadfastness of God.
  2. Take ownership of the results. Move forward from the retreat by allowing students to testify to what God did in their lives, set up a support system to help them achieve their goals and dreams, and provide accountability and encouragement as time goes on. If students perceive you are not interested in what God did in their lives, they will quickly lose interest as well. You are their shepherd, and the value you place on God’s work in them validates it from their perspective.
  3. Replicate the process in rest of your group. It’s unlikely that all your group was a part of ADVANCE, or any retreat you’re doing. So encourage them to make the same commitments the rest of the group made. Include them in what God did, and make use of the students who did go to the retreat in the process. Get your whole group on the same page. In the case of ADVANCE it would look like this: (a) highlight students who made a commitment to be a Campus Missionary, (b) explain what it means to Pray, Live, Tell, Serve, and Give, and (c) offer the remaining students an opportunity to commit to be a CM.

Need help recruiting Campus Missionaries? Read this post on Getting Started in Campus Missions, then check out our related posts.