It's again the time of year to plan the church retreat for children. Coming up with fresh ideas for a retreat isn't always easy. Doing a little research and considering a new approach to retreat activities can provide you and your charges a welcome change and an exciting getaway. You'll need to do a bit of planning, but it will be worth it.
One way to surprise and engage church kids is a treasure hunt. Stop by your local Christian bookstore and obtain a few inexpensive and interesting items that can be incorporated into a lesson or into the retreat's spiritual theme. Arrive at your campsite early and hide the items well, making notations of where you left everything. Limit your hunting area to about 2 acres -- large enough to be interesting, and close enough so that everyone can be kept in sight. Arrange and print up four or five treasure maps made for individual teams. Have your kids hunt and assemble for the night's lesson. Stress stories in the Gospel, such as keeping treasures in heaven.
Crafts & Cooking
For older kids, a retreat can incorporate a special craft. such as learning to knit or woodworking. Incorporating a new skill and craft is a welcome break from spiritual lessons and will help kids bond with their fellow campers and give them confidence by learning. Learning crafts also is an effective icebreaker and an inexpensive group activity. If you have access to kitchen facilities, you can hold classes on baking, or even simple lessons on campfire food that work well in a pinch. Imparting practical as well as spiritual lessons are a great way to make a retreat's lessons last for years to come.
Kids absolutely love movies. Some might not have been exposed to some of the classic Bible movies such as "The Ten Commandments," "The Robe" or even "Ben-Hur." Give your retreat a cinematic theme by showing and discussing two or three spiritual-themed movies and discussing whether they were accurate. You'll be surprised how interested kids will be in these old classics, and how the movies can bolster your Bible studies by reinforcing visually what children are studying.
If you're looking for a retreat that is totally out of the box and an exciting summer diversion, consider having a weekend of either canoeing or inner-tubing down a nearby river or creek. Most canoe and inner-tubing businesses can accommodate your church in an overnight stay with shower facilities and campground settings. You can ask the staff whether it can help you plan a treasure hunt at the campground before arrival, and have an old-fashioned campfire cookout with favorites.
Many ministries across the country are dedicated to teaching kids as they entertain. Considering a magician or puppeteer who specializes in Christian themes and who would be willing to travel to your retreat for a special show. You can also hire a wilderness company that specializes in rock climbing, rappelling and rafting with a company that incorporates biblical life applications as part of its services. You could invite a local wilderness expert come and talk about the habitat in the area, educating your children on the glory of God's creation.