“The Time of Your Life”
Students thrive at youth retreat
An annual Wisconsin Classis youth retreat offers fun and faith-building for sixth through eighth graders.
More than 330 students and their youth ministry leaders from 13 classis churches attended the retreat last year.
“We hold the retreat every third weekend in October at Silver Birch Ranch in White Lake, Wisconsin,” says Grant Mulder, one of the youth pastors who help organize and staff the retreats,
The retreat theme for 2014 was “HIStory,” focusing on stories of the Bible and how they pointed toward Jesus.
Mulder says after each retreat, youth leaders survey students to learn what the experience meant for them. “One student shared that going on this retreat was a big part of why she wanted to make profession of faith.”
Lauren LeClair, a member of the Gibbsville Reformed Church youth group that Mulder leads, said this about the 2014 retreat:
You learn so much about God and it makes you realize you should tell more people about God. Some of their sessions have you on the verge of happy tears and sad tears. During free time you meet new friends. You seriously have the time of your life there.
Abby Wildman, another Gibbsville youth group member, says:
The speakers really impact the way you think about the reason you are there. Not just to hang out with friends, but to grow closer to God and find where you are in your relationship with him. I’m in eighth grade and this was my final year… I know I will miss going and hopefully will be able to again someday.
Classis youth pastors meet monthly throughout the year to plan a retreat. Each youth leader takes on specific responsibilities. One assigns cabins; another organizes camp activities (horseback riding, rock climbing, ziplining, volleyball, basketball). Another brings a band and leads worship. A couple of others plan free time activities. At the 2014 event, four youth pastors, including Mulder, spoke at one of the retreat’s four teaching sessions.
After the teaching sessions, youth pastors spend time with their own youth group talking about the session and giving students time to ask questions. Mulder says that during these discussions are always some students who ask for quiet time. “Many students are excited to get back to all the other things that there are to do at Silver Birch, but a handful are more interested in finding times of quiet.”
After each retreat the youth pastors evaluate the event to make sure it was focused on God and allowed students to enjoy God’s creation, experience relevant worship, engage in memorable activities, hear God’s Word, encounter the gospel, and form relationships with mature believers.
Dates for the next retreat are October 16-18, 2015.