Things Youth Pastors Should Stop Wasting Time On: Retreat Booklets

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.

Read the rest of this article here. 

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

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