The first retreat I ever led was about authentic relationships. I spent HOURS prepping every aspect of this retreat – including hours on a retreat booklet for participants. The retreat booklet contained cartoons, quotes, the Bible passages we were using, and journaling prompts.
For the next six years in youth ministry, I produced similar booklets for every retreat I led.
I thought that's what youth pastors did. For something to be considered a retreat, I was convinced it had to have a corresponding booklet that teens could take home, treasure, and keep as a remembrance.
Eventually, I started noticing that when I'd do my final cabin walk-through to make sure no one had forgotten anything, I'd find a stack of retreat booklets in the trash.
Apparently, my teens didn't treasure them quite as much as I did.
I brushed it off, thinking that if even one teen looked at the retreat booklet again, the time and effort I'd spent making it was worth it.
But then I started noticing the volume of retreat booklets I'd find in the vans after we returned home, discarded and forgotten.
Once, a teen even asked me why I “wasted so much paper” creating such “silly booklets”. She accused me of hating the environment and then said, “It's not like anyone ever looks at these again.”
That's when I vowed never to create another retreat booklet.
In the seven years since, I haven't. And you know what?
No one has missed them.
Don't believe me?
Try it and see.
To be clear, I'm not opposed to giving teens a spiritual souvenir from their retreat. I just think we should utilize ones that don't take us hours to prepare.