Recipe For A Teen Retreat

By Mary Ann Bulko

The retreat described below has several purposes:

1. It is a regional retreat designed to bring together young people from many parishes, who could be reasonably expected to continue the friendships established at such a gathering.

2. The retreat is organized as part of a regular parish schedule. This involves adults and families in a given parish, enabling them to be actively involved in the retreat. The retreat participants are integrated into a normal parish situation, they are aware of their individual and corporate responsibility to their hosts, and they contribute to the ongoing liturgical life of a real community.

3. This format minimizes costs to participants (no facilities to rent) and therefore becomes viable for families of limited financial means. It does, however, mean that the sponsoring parish must be prepared to extend its hospitality and provide willing organizers and just plain hard workers!

Ingredients: A Bunch of Fresh (ripe that is) Youth

A Dash of Adults to Coordinate and Oversee

A Handful of Cooks

A Measure of Housing Hosts (Proportionate to number of youth, i.e. 3 to k youths per host.)

A Well-Seasoned Priest and Parish

Lots of Love, Patience, and Desire for Wholesome

Christian Fellowship

At least two months in advance:

Step 1. Form a Teen Retreat Committee.

Select the dates.

Three days is a good retreat length because it gives an opportunity for settling into new surroundings and helps make new acquaintances easier.

Six to eight weeks before:

Step 2. Plan a theme. I.E. “Tomorrow,” “Scriptures,” “Growing Up”

Draw up an agenda of activities.

A rough agenda ought to be prepared for the initial mailing, but can be more defined as details are worked out.

If you have a three day retreat, the Agenda may look like this:

Friday, (Date) Saturday, (Date) Sunday, (Date)
6:00 pm Registration9:00 am Morning prayer9:30 am Divine Liturgy
BreakfastBrunch Closing remarks
7:00 pm Dinner Main session on Theme & Topic
1:00 pm Departure
8:30 pm Welcoming remarks & Topic Introduction 1:00 pm Lunch
Afternoon outing
9:00 pm Party
5:00 pm Choir rehearsal
Vespers & Confession
Evening Session II

(Planning a choir practice as part of the weekend’s events is very important. Teens should actively participate in the liturgical worship.)

Determine a cost per teen.

We requested $14. per person in 1982, which included 5 meals prepared at the parish hall, mailings and admission to an ice skating rink. Expenses were adequately covered by this amount with a small surplus left over which was donated to a youth work-related charity house in New York City.

(Once you have an idea of the number of participants, you can plan financial arrangements. Parishes, dioceses, or individuals can pay additional expenses incurred. This is left to the discretion of the coordinators. Some parishes paid full expenses for their particular retreatants.)

Make a list of necessities the teens will need to bring with them.

I.E. Sleeping bags, pillows, skates, Bibles, etc.

At the same time:

Step 3. Organize the publicity.

Make it known that you plan to host a Teen Retreat.

Plan to contact each parish in your deanery/diocese, depending on how large a scale you are planning to encompass.

Establish a personal mailing list of teens’ names and addresses. Then contact each of them individually and directly. The list can be compiled from local camp lists, other priests’ lists, or from the old “grapevine.”

Request an RSVP for a week before the event and a FEE deposit in order to assure commitment and to make food purchases in advance. Additional time may be needed if reservations must be made for a particular activity, i.e. rental of a skating rink.

Include in your initial mailing the following:

Announcement of Retreat & Theme
Time, Date, Place, Cost

RSVP Forms with Deposit Required

Agenda of Activities and Necessities to bring along

Medical Form in case of illness / accident

Three to four weeks before:

Step 4. Begin to contact parishioners to volunteer as hosts for the teens or as cooks.

Firm up your agenda, making sure that leadership roles are clear, any printed materials are being taken care of, special activity reservations are made.

Activities may include skating, visit to a museum or historical site, hiking, a sports activity.

A Week before:

Step 5. After RSVP’s are received, plan your housing arrangements and set times for pick-up and delivery of teens by your parishioners. All meals are more conveniently served at the church hall and homes are needed only for sleep and showers, with some time allowed for fellowship as well. (Parishioners might be more receptive and flexible if their obligation is not too demanding!)

At the Retreat:

Step 6. Work schedules can be arranged for the teens themselves to help in setting up for meals and clean-up afterwards. (With some teens towering at six feet today, they certainly are capable of helping with the work.)



Mary Ann Bulko is a frequent contributor to The Orthodox Church newspaper, a member of the Section on Youth Ministry, Department of Stewardship and Lay Ministries, and lives in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Mary Ann Bulko is a frequent contributor to The Orthodox Church newspaper, a member of the Section on Youth Ministry, Department of Stewardship and Lay Ministries, and lives in Poughkeepsie, New York.