The summer before my senior year in college, all my friends went to live at the beach. I had a slightly different, yet brilliant, idea. I bought a hot dog cart and spent the summer working in Baltimore between Camden Yards (Orioles Stadium) and M&T Bank Stadium (Home of my beloved Ravens.) This was the most interesting, educational summer of my life. The first day, I set everything up, put the hot dogs in the boiling water and started putting out the condiments. I quickly realized that I had forgotten a few essential items, most notably a utensil to get the hot dogs out of the boiling water. After pulling 47 hot dogs out of boiling water with just a rubber glove on my hand, I discovered the importance of putting together a very complete daily checklist.
So what does second degree burns, hot dogs, and checklists have to do with God?
Well, sometimes we in youth ministry struggle with organization. I learned this the hard way on my first fall retreat as a youth minister. Forgetting to bring something as small as an s-video wire can disrupt that amazing retreat experience that you have been praying about, planning for, and convincing your pastor to attend for months. So I recommend assembling a quality retreat kit as far in advance as possible (a few weeks or more). Below is a short list of some of the retreat essentials that you should never leave home without:
Top 10 Essentials for an Awesome Retreat
- Duct Tape – Think MacGyver. Everything that needs to be hung, fixed, attached or built can be done with duct tape. Just to be safe – bring two rolls.
- A Large Cross or Crucifix – This creates instant environment and focal point within a room.
- First Aid Kit – Make sure that it’s fully stocked. Trust me, you only need it when you don’t have it.
- Candles and Matches – A great thing to keep on hand for prayer time, Adoration, and Mass.
- Pens and Paper – Very useful for icebreakers, letters to Jesus and paper airplanes.
- Extension Cord and Power Strip – Because that 6-foot cord on the projector never reaches a wall outlet.
- Basic Resources – Bibles, Rosaries, Examination of Consciences, Catechisms, and 100 Things Every Catholic Teen Should Know. A table with resources to use in the back of the room never hurts. You would be surprised the number of teens that will pick one up to read during the free time. The more, merrier!
- USB Stick with All Retreat Documents and Files– “Is this last year’s schedule you printed out?” It never hurts to have the song lyric PowerPoint, schedules, session outlines and anything else you might leave on your office desk.
- Name Tags – So you don’t have to call that teen “buddy” all weekend long
- What Your Teens Forgot – It never hurts to pack an extra sleep bag, a toothbrush or a few of last year’s retreat tee shirts. Someone will need them.
A Few Extra To-Do’s:
- Permission Slips w/ Medical Information – It’s good to know your teens’ food or drug allergies. Most retreat centers can provide food for dietary restriction if you let them know in advance. Bring two copies of all forms in two separate binders.
- Music Gear – If it’s an IPod loaded with praise and worship or a setup for a David Crowder concert, make sure you have what you and your music ministers need.
- Directions to the Retreat Center with a List of Teens Attending – Inevitably there is always one teen that misses the carpool or bus. It’s good for the staff and your pastor have the directions and to know who is going. This is especially important if your pastor or a priest is coming.
- Touch base with All Your Priests – Face it, they lead a crazy life, so don’t forget to talk to or email them 5-7 days before the retreat to make sure they know what role are you are asking them to fulfill. Are they going to be bringing the monstrance or mass kit? They will really appreciate this!
Remember to pray with the Core Team, keep the focus on Christ, and have an awesome retreat!