How to have a Young Ladies Retreat

I have had some friends ask about the Young Ladies Retreat that we do every year, so I thought I would give you some of my ideas and planning tips!

1. Decide what your goal is for a Young Ladies Retreat.
Mine can vary a little year to year but generally speaking our goal is:
That each girl would
  1. Know and love God more
  2. Know who Christ made her to be
  3. Build relationships with some ladies and girls in our church
  4. Know her Biblical role (as a woman)  in the home, society and the family of God
  5. Be more committed to growing in her relationship with Jesus.

2. (I am starting super basic!) Pick a good time!
My first couple of retreats were held in May but that ended up not being ideal because of graduations, vacation and other things going on that month. I have been doing them in October during their fall break ever since and that works out quite nicely. I don't want to compete with Camp, or Missions Trips or VBS and Fall Break is a good time to remind the girls what it is all about since they are getting bogged down by school, sports, scholarships and to reconnect with them after so much busyness!
Up here, Fall Break starts on a Friday for most schools so we leave the Thursday afternoon before so we can get to our destination that night and be ready to start Friday morning. We do lessons, games, crafts, outings and eating until late Monday morning when we leave for home. :)

3. Pick a good team!
I have found that it is ESSENTIAL to have a good team. The first couple of years I was pretty dumb and tried doing everything: planning, cooking, games, lessons, music, watching all the girls etc. by MYSELF! Yeah, doesn't work very well! :) I still do the majority of the planning by myself and that is good, but it is nice to have more people to grab ideas from, do shopping with, and to just help out!
First you need someone who would love to help by getting the meal planning done and then cooking the meals during the retreat. Trust me-that is HUGE! Even if you have to do the grocery shopping for it (which I don't anymore because Karen spoils me!) it is a huge load off not to worry about it during the Retreat.
Also, my husband and I are super blessed by our volunteer youth worker team! I have two other ladies that LOVE to help me with games, crafts and lessons.
Also, since I don't like to bring down the wrath unless I HAVE to, it is great to have another authoritative, godly woman who can help with disciplinary things (because trust me, they will happen) and being a watchful eye.
Last year besides myself, I had 5 other women come and help with Retreat. I only had 14 girls, but that was a good ratio. Also, it is good to have that many workers in case someone needs to be taken to Urgent Care or something (that happened last year) and you need workers to stay with the group, drive the vans, etc.

4. Pick a Great Theme!
I LOVE themes!!! I do! I was so excited when God gave me this year's theme the very last day of last year's retreat! (Did I lose you???)
Last year's theme was my favorite-that is until this year! YLR 2009's theme was "Beautiful Bride" our lessons were focused on being the Bride of Christ, Jewish Weddings and the picture of Christ and His Church, and also super practical lessons on modesty and honoring God in all our relationships. So fun!!!
Last year we went to Pagosa Springs and so we did a lesson on Esther while soaking in the  Natural Hot Springs! We went for a hike, went shopping in the little strip of gift stores on main street and visited a church on Sunday.
Back at the house, we did our lessons, ate our meals, played games and did crafts!
Rachel was in charge of games and she did an amazing job! She organized, bought the supplies and MC'd the games that were all wedding shower games-to fit in with our theme! :)

For crafts, the girls made "Wedding Scrapbooks" I happened to still own 30 or so wedding magazines from my pre-wedding days (starting in 10th grade!) So (after I pulled out my favorites!) the girls went through them and pulled out everything they wanted for their wedding! They all picked out dresses, colors, cakes, bouquets, and even themes! I had been collecting wedding scrapbook stuff from the $1 bins at Micheals and Target so they had plenty of paper, stickers, ribbon and cut-outs to dress up their dream wedding pages with! They did an amazing job! I wish I could show them to you! Maybe I will take a picture of the wedding I put together! ;) (Yeah, I am still a little obsessed with the whole "wedding" thing!)

We had other crafts to do, but we never actually got around to this one, and some girls worked on these scrapbooks during any free time they had!

Something we did that was new this year and went with our theme really well was we bought some small wooden boxes with lids at Micheal's. Spray painted them black and had one for each girl. We put their name on some scrapbook paper and stuck it to the top. They now have a miniature "hope chest." And with every lesson, they received an item to go in their box! This item had the key verse for that lesson put on it and was in their box to remind them what they learned. Some of the items were a small goblet, (a wedding favor kind) a large diamond engagement ring (they were key rings from Oriental Trading!) and other things like that. This was one of the harder things to do in the sense that we had 9 lessons so we needed 9 things to fit inside these boxes! Plus, we had to be sure they were inexpensive! One of the objects was a piece of chocolate so they would remember to "Taste and see that the Lord is good"-not just to know all about His ingredients!

5. Location, location, location!
Part of this is getting away from normal everyday life and seeing something new. We have gone as close as a Ranch 45 minutes away, to California 12 hours away! Our favorite location so far has been Pagosa Springs. Until last year, we stayed in a couple of time shares with stocked kitchens, or in several hotel rooms with a kitchenette. Last year we spent the same amount of money and rented a HUGE house all of us could stay in. We had a general living space, a huge, stocked kitchen and our own hot tub! I found ours on I haggled with the owners and got $100 off a night! :) You can bet I was doing a happy dance!
This little town was also ideal for us. Previously we had been in big towns and always gone to the mall for some shopping (mostly because all we have here at home is a Wal-Mart and K-Mart and when you have the opportunity to do some real shopping you just do!) but it was becoming a pain (and scary) to keep track of all the girls and banning them from certain stores like Hot Topic or whatever. So in the small town of Pagosa, we stuck to the tiny strip of stores on one side of the road! They had a candy store, and several small gifty stores and coffee shops! They had a blast and I felt much safer letting them wander around in groups. :)
Also, we like to get out and do some hiking, swimming and anything else we can outside. So Pagosa worked great for that!

6. Details, details, details!
~Every year, the girls are given a 3-ring binder.
They have tabs for the songs we sing, lesson handouts, games, prayer requests, the schedule, recipes from the meals we had, morning devotions, etc!

~The girls can earn prizes from the prize box for memorizing key verses, doing their morning devos (which last year were previews to the lessons they were going to hear that day) and winning games. The prizes are mostly dollar items from Target, Michael's and they were spoiled last year with stuff I got at a Bath and Body Works Outlet Store in Wisconsin!

~I try to split up cliques, sisters and best friends in the different bedrooms and teams to try to make new friendships.

~We decorate as much as possible depending on where we are staying. For this theme, we had the workers bring in their wedding pictures which the girls LOVED looking over and hearing our stories and testimonies!

~The girls are not allowed to have cell-phones and they and their parents sign a form saying that if for any reason I deem, they need to go home for disciplinary reasons, their parents will arrange for that girl to immediately go home.
I have only had to do that once in 5 years, but afterward the girls took it a lot more seriously! ;)

~To raise money to go, we will notify our church that we have girls raising money for retreat. They will babysit, clean, do yardwork etc. for the families in our church. One of my helpers help to organize matching the girl with the family based on each parties needs.

7. Flexibility!
You have to be flexible and be able to change things around. Every year there are things on the schedule that don't get done. Either we don't have time, or it might not work or we should do something else. The schedule always gets changed and all my workers go into it knowing that stuff is bound to change somewhere! :)

8. Don't forget the Holy Spirit!!!
He basically does everything from the theme, to the location, to the helpers, to the games! No joke, He pulls it all together every year and every year just gets better!

Previous Themes:
Surivor- cowgirl style! We stayed in a ranch-type place, had a cook-out and threw cow-pies! We also had contests for the best sling-shot shooter, paint ball shooter and airsoft shooter. Also, I ordered chocolate covered ants and crickets for a challenge! So fun!
"Walk"-We focused on walking with God on a daily basis. We gave away One Year Bibles that some ladies of our church scrapbooked the covers of. We went to the beach (in Cali) and made feet shapes we took home, made out of sand, plaster, and shells we had found! Fun!

If you would like to see what a previous schedule looks like, comment and let me know- I will get with you to email one to you! :)
If you have any further questions or ideas, comment!!! :)

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  1. Sounds like you are extremely involved in the lives of the girls that you and your husband minister to. What a blessing to all of the young ladies to have a wonderful youth pastor's wife. Keep up the good work.

  2. this is really helpful.
    i'm a leader of young ladies in our church and sometimes i'm running out of ideas especially with new activities that we can do to make them more involve in God's ministry. This coming saturday, we're going to have a fun run but I'm still thinking of some activities that we can do after the run. Do you have any suggestions? Do you games that we can possibly play after the run?
    Thanks in advance.
    May God continue to bless you heart.

  3. Ooohhhh! A Fun Run! Sounds fun!!! ;)
    Most of our games we find online.

    Here are a couple of good links!
    Maybe that will help?
    Have fun! God bless!

  4. Sounds to me like your making the girls believe that their number one goal should be to get married. I think you can have a wonderful relationship with God while being young and pursuing a career that you've worked hard for. I'm 27 years old, have a career and I'm perfectly happy. I don't need a man to make my relationship with the Lord better. Just my faith and my heart.

  5. Hi!
    I'm not sure where you got that exactly. The Bride theme was one year and actually centered on the Jewish courtship rituals and how Jesus went through them to "wed" the church. Regardless of your marital status the only true satisfaction in life comes from being in love with Christ and finding your identity through Him. I ALWAYS teach that. However there is the occasional lesson on being a wife and mother, just like there is an occasional lesson on friendship, purity, parents, etc. And when I teach on the home I teach biblically-the husband is the head of the home. Wives submit and there is a ton of freedom in that. :) I encourage my girls to get an education and learn and study as much as they can but to be careful- I discourage a lot of student loans because I know too many friends that got a great degree and got a great job but then had kids and wanted to stay home (not that everyone has to) but had a hard time because they needed to pay off a pile of debt. I am rambling now but maybe that cleared things up a little. :)

  6. I was googling ideas for young women's retreats and found your site. The second I saw that you used the word "retarded" I was repulsed. Welcome to 2014.

  7. Anonymous, thank you for your comment! You are correct, that was not the best word choice and changed it to dumb. I certainly meant no disrespect-one of my favorite jobs ever was working with special needs kiddos. They are amazing! <3

  8. I would love to see a schedule. I'm looking to implement a retreat into our program.

  9. I would love to see a schedule or any things from the Beautiful Bride Retreat you did with your girls! I am a Youth Pastors wife and we do a retreat every May and I am already starting to plan for next year and I am really looking into do a Bride focused theme! Thanks so much!

  10. Thank you for this!!! My church is planning a girls retreat and this article has definitely brought the planning process into perspective. I love to see ministries that are actively involved in the lives of the young people. Once again, thank you!


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