From August 19-22, we took our Middle School Ministry to Lake Ann Camp and the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes for our Summer Trip, which we cleverly called "Dunes 2010." From every aspect of the trip I can absolutely say it was the best retreat I've been able to be a part of. And since things were so incredible, I figured I'd break down some of my experience. Lake Ann Camp
A buddy of mine works at this camp and when I found out the campground I intended on using became an RV Resort, EJ stepped in was able to work out a deal so that our group could run our retreat using their facilities. It worked out great for us because Lake Ann was done with all their summer camps, which allowed us to run our own show, which provides us the flexibility to do what we want and get the students there for a great price.
Lake Ann had tons of great stuff for us to use while we were there - nice cabins, a sweet game room and coffee shop area, a lake front with canoes and blob, a zip line, and tons of other stuff. I couldn't be happier to find a new home for our summer retreat, plus Lake Ann Camp went way out of their way to help us with anything we needed.
Going into the trip I kept looking at the list of volunteers we had with excitement. The reason I was so excited about this group of volunteers is that I really felt like we had the right people for this trip. The most important thing on any of our trips is that our adults aren't there to be chaperones, but that they are there to build relationships with the students. We had that on the trip from all of our leaders and it showed.
One of my fears programming any big retreat is that I'm going to not have enough stuff planned and people will get bored. That was definitely not the case and I, of course, had to cut things out since I jam packed our schedule with activities that just wouldn't fit. The great thing about our programming is that we are able to do all the "key" items on our schedule and that was interrupted by bad weather, which was a minor scare to some of our students. I also tried out having "Cabin Time" as a portion of each of our day's programming. Cabin Time, for a lack of a better name, was simply free time that had to be spent with cabin groups. I think this really helped our trip experience; it forced students to be together and by the end of the trip, there was a closeness between groups.
Sessions are always one of my favorite parts of retreats; as a leader I love the opportunity to speak to our students in this type of setting. There is a different attentiveness and excitement being away from home and it's exciting to speak into that. Our theme for this year was "Loser," which centered around the idea of us losing everything to follow Jesus. We ended not getting to do one of our evening sessions due to a change in the programming, but even then I felt like our sessions went very well. The students seemed to grasp the message and one of our interns even got a chance to teach for the first time. And like any of our trips when we get to have worship music, getting to worship with our middle school students is incredible.