11 Great Youth Retreat Ideas
Youth retreats are a great way for a high school class, church group, or scouting troop to spend time together in a meaningful way, where they can take part in leadership exercises, discussion groups, games, and other fun activities. The event can be focused on a particular theme, or you can offer participants a variety of activities to take part in. Whether you’re planning an overnight retreat, a day trip, or a campout, check out these 11 great youth retreat ideas to get inspired.
1. Choose the right role models
Having a memorable guest speaker or facilitator is key to hosting a great youth retreat. After all, one of the appeals of going to a retreat is getting away from all of the usual pressures of life and learning from new role models and mentors.
One great way to get participants invested is to invite slightly older teenagers or young adults to lead discussion groups. Ideas that kids might roll their eyes at when they come from authority figures might be more welcomed when they come from peers they can relate to. Likewise, finding a local business leader, musical artist, or another successful figure to deliver a keynote speech can help set the tone of the event and get your attendees inspired.
2. Rent a unique Peerspace venue
Finding a memorable venue to host your youth retreat is another good place to start. That way, you can design activities based on what’s available at your location. Peerspace has a range of venues suitable for youth retreats, from converted churches turned into event spaces, to rural retreat spaces in scenic natural settings.
You’ll also find plenty of spaces with game rooms, such as this retreat room with a billiard table in Philadelphia, or this private bowling alley and lounge room in Seattle. Just search Peerspace for even more great youth retreat ideas in your area.
Plus, many Peerspace venues come with A/V gear, on-site kitchens, and even catering options, making it easy to plan an event with a little help from the Concierge service!
3. Enjoy a campout
Whether you’re planning an overnight event or a single-day retreat, having a campfire is a great way to bring your event to a close. You don’t even have to leave the city to make it happen, with spaces like this magical cabin in Echo Park available to host your activities. Or, rent this garden in Laguna Beach with a beautiful backyard firepit and 360-degree views of the canyon!
4. Go to a climbing gym
Another great youth retreat idea is to host your event at a rock climbing gym, like this incredible multipurpose venue in Seattle. Hire a trained facilitator to lead you in trust-building exercises and competitions that will build confidence and team spirit in a safe and supportive environment.
5. Play cooperative games
Set aside competitive board games like Risk and Monopoly in favor of cooperative alternatives like Pandemic or Co-opoly. This is a powerful way to teach young people about teamwork and collaboration, rather than pitting them against each other in a winner-takes-all tournament.
6. Screen a movie
Take a break from interactive activities by screening a movie that addresses one of the themes of your retreat. Whether it’s a recent teen movie like Booksmart or a documentary about mental health, use this as an opportunity to start a discussion about something timely and relevant.
You can choose a venue like this Egyptian-themed theater in Seattle or this 30-person screening room in Los Angeles — and, of course, make sure that any film you choose is age-appropriate for the youth group that will be attending your retreat.
7. Host a coding contest
There’s no getting around the fact that kids who learn to code are in a better position to find work in IT and other technical fields. While it may be tempting to take their phones and iPads away to help them better focus on the “real world,” sometimes it’s better to embrace kids’ natural affinity for technology. More and more organizations are offering coding camps and competitions for kids — such as All Star Code and the Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero.
8. Plan a writer’s workshop
Or, if you prefer to focus on the written word, host a writer’s workshop instead. The Writopia Lab offers a three-day Teen Writers Retreat with several different paths to choose from, including Writing Your Activism and SciFi/Fantasy. The latter path even includes Dungeons and Dragons games to get them inspired! You can incorporate similar exercises into your retreat by using themed prompts and encouraging attendees to read their work aloud as part of a feedback circle.
9. Take an improv class
Another great youth retreat idea is to participate in an improv class. BATS School of Improv in San Francisco is just one of many programs around the country offering improv workshops for kids. They describe their class as a “tool for improving verbal expression, enhancing listening skills, building body awareness, and boosting self-confidence” — which are exactly the things that you want attendees of your youth retreat to walk away with!
10. Participate in a volunteer project
Another option is to take your group on a service trip or participate in a volunteer project. While many service trips are religious in nature, they don’t have to be. The New York Times recently highlighted five community service programs for teens that can inspire you. If you don’t have the budget to travel overseas, volunteer closer to home with Habitat for Humanity instead.
11. Read letters from friends and family
Whichever type of youth retreat you choose, it’s a great idea to collect letters from friends and family ahead of time to hand out at the retreat. These should be letters of love, encouragement, and affirmation, reminding participants that their loved ones back home are thinking about them and are proud of them. If your retreat is an overnight event, your attendees may not be used to being away from home for so long, so reading letters from home can help them feel at ease.
Youth retreats can be a rite of passage, especially for those who have never been to summer camp or spent much time away from home. The best retreats are those that offer a space for personal growth and discovery in the company of supportive peers and mentors. As with any retreat, you’ll want to book your venue and facilitators well ahead of time. We think these 11 great youth retreat ideas — and venue suggestions — will give you plenty to work with!