As you probably know from your own personal retreat experiences, there are many different ways to “retreat” with teens who are participating in a Confirmation, youth ministry, or campus ministry retreat. However, depending on the group and circumstances, some models definitely work better than others do. Here are a few options:
Two-Day Overnight Retreat.
This is usually an ideal option for a group. A weekend allows time for the relationships among teens and adults to develop in a variety of experiences, including small-group sharing, recreation, and communal prayer. A weekend retreat may be a teen’s first chance to experience an informal celebration of the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist. Many teens who return home from a weekend retreat name the celebrations of the sacraments as the highlights of their time away.
Depending on how far you are from the retreat location, a one-night retreat can offer most of the same advantages of a weekend retreat. Yet, you may find that just when the group is coming together, it’s time for them to go home. For younger adolescents, however, one-night retreats are preferable.
These can be difficult, whether they are held on a missed school day or a Saturday. In either case, it is hard for the teens to put schoolwork or basketball practice out of their minds in such a short time. Rather than spending seven or eight hours together during a day, have the teens meet from about 4 pm to midnight. These “less used” hours make the retreat time more sacred. Just make sure the teens have a free day from school on the day after the retreat so that they can rest and recover.
Shorter retreats of about three to five hours can be successful for breaking out of the regular youth group-like routine. Schedule a mini-retreat during the time your group usually meets, albeit adding two or three hours of extending time. With this extra time, provide variation from what you usually do in a class or meeting. For example, add more time for personal and communal prayer. If you rarely include music in your prayer, do so on this occasion. If possible, incorporate a Mass into this mini-retreat as well.