The work of a youth retreat is multiple. In a space of under 48 hours we want students to: learn, rest, play, eat, build community, find solitude, pray, reflect, share, and listen, just for starters.
What one person can design an experience that accomplishes all that? Nobody I know.
My favorite experiences leading retreats have been with a collaborative team where somebody designs the recreation and someone else designs the community building and still someone else takes charge of the learning. And everybody does some of the talking; I’ve never hired a featured retreat speaker.
You break it up however works, but the important thing is to do it with collaborators and to give one another permission to do what we do. And show your work.
This is not without tension. Signals can get mixed. People work at different paces and hold varying standards. Theological convictions differ. Most of that tension at least has the potential to generate something interesting, though, for the leaders as much as for the youth.
I’ve come to a place where I don’t want to lead retreats unless I can work with a team that designs them from the ground up.