One of my favorite events every winter/spring is our annual D-Now weekend. Seeing students come to know Jesus and others take further steps in their lives to grow their Christian walk. I have the privilege to have 12 other churches who partner together every year for a D-Now weekend in Durham and Orange Counties of North Carolina. Over the years I have seen students give their lives over to Christ and hundreds of others have made decisions within their Christian walk. I have found it easier to find articles on how to prepare for a D-Now weekend, but sometimes the area least talked about is life after a D-Now. If you’re preparing for an upcoming retreat, D-Now or another kind of retreat-like event, here are four areas I have found essential to implement after a big weekend where God has moved within your student ministry.
I love celebrating salvation! When someone gives their life over to Christ, I believe there is a party in heaven when someone gives their life over to Christ (Luke 15:7-10). When someone gives their life to Christ at a retreat weekend, we celebrate and go crazy over salvation.
When the weekend ends, celebrate instantly what God has done in a students life. Personally, I celebrate by thanking God for his grace and love. I go over to the students who gave their lives to Christ over the weekend to tell them I love them, proud of them, and excited for their new life in Christ. Then, I invite them to come to our Youth Room for our mid-week service that week for a significant celebration service with free food to celebrate salvation and decisions.
My wife and I also love celebrating God working in our students that we celebrate instantly God working in students. Over the past few years, we have gotten ice cream throughout the weekend or when the weekend ends to celebrate what God has done in a teenagers life. Make a Big Deal out of salvation!
Make sure throughout the weekend to have response cards where people who make a decision can write down their information, but also the choice they made for Christ. Outside of celebration, the most important thing after a retreat weekend is the follow-up. Students may come to your event, but they are not part of a local church body where they worship weekly. A follow up does not exists to build up your numbers, but actually exists to help you connect with those who made decisions and help them go through the process of discipleship.
A successful follow up happens through contacting the student a few days after the weekend. It’s best to connect with students within the first 48 hours when their decision from the weekend is still fresh. Two ways that I have found to be effective in following up is meeting students at a local eatery to discuss their faith, and the second way is to have a text conversation to talk through their decision and steps being made after the weekend.
Celebrate with a Party
Every year in our mid-week service, our student ministry throws a big party to celebrate what God has done through Salvation and decisions made over the weekend. Why? Because we know the angels are rejoicing and we want to make a big deal out of big things God is doing in students lives.
I recommend planning out the night with free food, cake, and other goodies for the students to enjoy. After eating play a fun game to get the students involved and feel welcome. Remember this celebration night is not about you growing your student ministry in numbers. The goal of the celebration party exists to celebrate, eat, have fun, and also challenge the students with a message to help them build off of their decision for Christ from the weekend.
When the celebration party comes to an end, take time to pray for your students. I think it is vital that we pray for the students before we send them back out into the world.
Invest after the weekend
The key to a successful retreat centers on what happens after the event. Take time to invest in the students and help build off of the weekend. It could be a place where you meet with students once a week or every other week to talk through steps to help each student build upon their Christian walk. I have seen accountability groups develop because of decisions made after a D-Now weekend. Each student hopefully made a decision at your retreat, but make sure you allow yourself to be open for students to share what God did in their lives. The goal for every retreat is to build on decisions made and help students to own their faith.
Be as creative as you can to help the students remember their decision, but also have a tool to build off the weekend. Students are prone to live off one event to the next. The key would be that we help them build off one event that they become active in their Christian walk from one event and not waiting for the next event to feed them.
No matter your format or approach to life after a retreat, just invest in your students. Your investment now will produce long after you are gone.
Scott Talley currently serves as an Associate Pastor of Students at Ebenezer Baptist Church, in Durham, NC. Scott has been ministering to students for over 15+ years where he has had the privilege of sharing the gospel with students while helping them become Men and Women of God.