Taking 3rd-5th grade students on a weekend retreat is a rite of passage. It could be a student’s first time away from home or first time away from family. Both students and parents have lots of questions and lots of uncertainty, but their desire for their child to have a closer relationship with the Lord trumps all that when they fill out the paperwork and arrive for send-off. The trust factor is high and I don’t take it lightly. This is why students should be able to answer the big question of, “How was the retreat?” with more than “Awesome!” even though it was, or “Great!” even though it might have been. It’s an investment of family finances, time, and heart to send a student on a retreat, so families are due more than “Awesome!”

The North Georgia United Methodist Church Conference offers an intentionally developmentally appropriate 3rd-5th grade fall weekend retreat at the beautiful Camp Glisson in Dahlonega, Georgia. Here are the blog posts about the past retreats to give you an idea of how it’s presented.

The 2018 Children’s Fall Retreat was based on John Wesley’s 3 Simple Rules of DO NO HARM, DO GOOD, LOVE GOD. Throughout the teaching times, Wesleyan devotional ‘method’ practices, and even meals (family style) the students learned and practiced how to live out this Wesleyan way of growing like Jesus ‘in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man.’ (Luke 2:52) while creek walking, lake swimming, hiking, trekking, field gaming, and more.

Beginning Saturday afternoon, we share and role-play how the students will answer these four questions:
1. What did you do at Camp Glisson that you’d never done before?
2. Who did you meet or get to know better sharing their name and something amazingly wonderful about him/her/them?
3. What did you learn about Methodism and John Wesley?
4. What is your plan to continue to grow in wisdom (not just knowledge), stature (how your body works/what your body needs), and in favor with God and man (living in peace and obedience to God’s Word) in the Wesleyan Way?

The students shared in a small group of 4 first, followed by one person from each small group sharing their answer to each question with the entire group, moving one question at a time. We role-played on the bus on the way home with our seat-mate. The first of the week, an email will be sent to the parents inviting each student to write down (or dictate to their parents) their answers to each question giving testimony to their experiences. In the Wesleyan Way, the large group is like the Church. The Small group is like a Class Meeting (these are smaller groups of people who came together to share their spiritual journey and receive support and supervision.) The Seat Mate is like a Band (Bands were the smallest gathering of faith-filled Methodists who would have ‘close conversations’ which help us be stronger and more resilient, kinder, and gentler, growing in love and holiness). These ‘written testimonies’ will be read aloud by the students, as they wear their retreat tshirt, at the next Church Administrative Council Meeting in October. Our Church Administrative Council meets quarterly with the first 15 minutes highlighting a particular ministry AND the meeting is located in that ministry’s space on campus. October’s meeting will be in The Treehouse highlighting ministry with children.

Followup matters whether it’s after an event, after each Sunday, or after a retreat. How will you followup with your students and families?

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9