There are few opportunities where you see more tremendous growth in students in so little time than at conferences and retreats.
These events help students to make critical decisions that will deepen their walk and commitment to the Lord. There is something unique about getting away from our normal life and environment and spending a few days solely focused on our relationship with God. The things done at a conference can make a lifetime of difference in the lives of people, affect your community of ministry for years to come, and can lead to more and more spiritual growth for the attendees.
Steps To Take as a Leader
Determine to Go
It is crucial that the leadership of a student movement attend conferences and retreats. Even veteran conferees, who feel they have heard it all (which, of course, is not true), can best encourage others to go if they go themselves. A movement takes a giant step toward building vision when leaders decide to go and then asks themselves: Who can I bring with me?
Announce regularly the upcoming retreat or conference. Freely give out promo materials. You might punctuate its importance by setting up a registration booth at your weekly meeting. Someone could share briefly how this conference or retreat affected his or her life.
Posters, videos and brochures are great recruiting tools but by themselves have little affect in convincing students to come to a conference. Students most often attend conferences because they are personally invited and because their friends are going. Leaders will see greatest success in recruiting if they take time to individually meet with the students involved in your movement. Then they can explain more of the specifics of the conference, deal with any potential barriers, and pray with the potential conferee.
Once at the retreat, the leaders need to plan some events the group can do together. Retreats unify them as a movement and anything you can do to facilitate that will greatly benefit your ministry. Students are interested in the cause, but relationships keep them returning to your group.
Provide Opportunities for Future Involvement
You may have heard the phrase “involvement breeds commitment.” Toward the end of the retreat or conference is a great time to build an opportunity for future involvement and a sense of vision in the whole group. Plan to meet together as a group on the last day of the event. This provides a great opportunity to do four things:
- Have a sharing time so students can hear how God has worked in each other’s lives.
- Use God’s Word to communicate His heart to the team.
- Point to the future. Plan an event (usually an outreach) that will give them an opportunity to apply what they have learned.
- Pray together. Praising God for what He’s done at the conference and praying for the future.
Rick and I seemed to hit it off from the first day we met. He readily trusted Christ when the gospel was presented to him. He was very eager to learn about his new found faith and every time I told Rick about the next conference or retreat coming up, he appeared excited about it.
Many times though he would decide at the last minute to “skip this one” until finally a good friend of his was going and Rick decide to join him. He was excited about the conference and felt an extra boost of confidence knowing that he already had one friend there.
Rick had a life-changing week.
He was infused with a vision that he had never caught before. Soon after the event, he was one of the key leaders of the movement. He led both his roommates to the Lord. He also designed a number of evangelistic strategies that were used by the movement to more effectively reach students for Christ.
Two years after graduation, Rick left his position in one of the top advertising firms in the world to join the staff of Cru. Today, the Lord is using him to create and develop campus movements all over the United States.