Confessions of a Country Parson- In which a small church does a youth retreat

example retreatIt is easy to settle for “good enough.” Why strive for excellence when excellence is expensive and requires time, money, and sacrifice? Only churches with large budgets and multiple staff members can truly do something with “excellence.” Right? To quote one of the great sages of the 21st century, Dwight Schrute, “False!”

A number of months ago my wife had the idea of doing a weekend youth retreat. In the Bible Belt these are often called “Disciple Now Weekends.” My wife, having grown up in the Bible Belt, got to experience some of these as a teenager and she wanted to give our youth group the opportunity to learn, worship, serve, and have fun in a similar format. The question became, can a small church put together a youth retreat with many moving parts and do it with an excellence that is reflected in everything from the teaching and worship to the promotional materials and t-shirts?

For this retreat to happen smoothly and for all the different aspects of it to be done well, it required months of planning. It required numerous emails and phone calls with our speaker to come up with the curriculum. It required the work of a graphic designer to design t-shirts and promotional materials that were original and fit with the theme of the retreat. It required the coordination of host home to house and feed the youth. And much more. It was a lot of work.

Was it worth it? When Laura and I reflected on the weekend I think the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” I say all of this to encourage other folks who might be leaders or volunteers in small churches. Just because we don’t have huge budgets and massive talent pools does not mean we can’t do things with excellence. The best thing that we did was to put to use the many resources in our network. Volunteers in the church provided the meals. Our speaker was a friend from college who also is a worship leader/graphic design artist at a good size church in Oklahoma. Because he could both speak and sing we didn’t need to try and find a separate worship leader and he designed the original curriculum himself. The graphic designer we used was my sister-in-law. She is exceptionally talented and provided a wonderful and original product at a price we could afford.

Look at your church. Look at your personal network. Use those connections that God has put in your life as you think about events for your local congregation. Don’t let the size of your church keep you from striving for excellence.

Here are the videos from our retreat. Please forgive the dramatically varying quality of them. We had just started using a new camera and hadn’t yet got all the kinks worked out. That is something I could have done with more “excellence.”

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