Monthly youth leaders column
The weekend away...
It seems many of us do this these days.
After a hard week at work we get in the car and drive off to the sea or the country. Judging by the traffic on the M3 near my home on a Sunday evening, quite a few people are doing it even in the depths of winter. Youth groups, along with summer camps and house parties, are doing weekends away with their groups in the winter.
My experience is that many of these prove to be valuable.
Take your team away
But something I found very helpful was to take your team away for a weekend, however small your team is. If you can choose a weekend when someone might be able to cover your group, that’s great, but I still think that cancelling a group meeting is outweighed by the importance of the leadership team spending time together. I always found it worked better if you travelled some distance to discourage people popping in for one session.
Once you’re there spend some time reviewing the work — look at the plus and the minus points of what is happening. Talk about dreams for the future — we rarely do that under the pressure of lifting off a programme every week. At the heart of a leaders’ retreat is the ministry of the word and it’s often best done by a visiting speaker. He can speak with freedom without fear that he may be pointing the finger at a team member. Times of sung worship and prayer should be in there too, along with a chance to share with each other. Again, we don’t do that in the weekly meeting — it’s not for that and there isn’t time. Some of the retreats I have run have allowed people to express ideas which have been running round their brain for weeks and never had a chance to get out.
And make sure you relax. Play games together, go for walks together, just talk to each other and care for each other. Building teams is an under-developed art which clearly both Jesus and the Apostle Paul understood. It can be argued that Jesus spent the majority of his three-year ministry developing the apostles into gospel men who would change the world.
Some have criticised this kind of weekend on the grounds that it doesn’t achieve much. So keep a record of what you decide and the action points for the future. Make sure all the team and the church leadership see what was talked about and decided — communicate appropriate bits to your church. It all helps dispel the rumour that you just went away for a ‘jolly’. Your visiting speaker can help as a facilitator and ask the crucial questions and perhaps help you to see things that you just don’t see. I have found these times to be transformational in so many ways. As a review of your ministry, as well as a good place to make plans, there is no better environment. But also to grow your team around a common purpose and vision as they get to know each other can pay handsome dividends. If anybody would like a detailed plan, please get in touch.
Dave Fenton is the Training Director of Root 66 which runs training courses for youth ministers across the UK.