Our church’s college group’s first ever spring retreat was held last weekend at Camp Copass in Denton/Lewisville, and it was both fun and tiring. We got back two days ago, and after spending most of yesterday catching up on sleep after a hectic week, I’ll jot down some reflections.
The college group started in the fall of 2010, and we had somewhere around 8-11 students coming regularly to our Wednesday college meetings. They were mostly all freshman, and I was brand new at the church too. Now, three and half years later, despite some leadership turnover, God has grown the college group such that it seemed like a good time to finally hold a college retreat. Some rough ideas started last summer and most of the planning started at the turn of the new year.
Since it was our first retreat, we didn’t know exactly what we were doing, but we trusted God and did the best we could to plan the thing. We selected the camp, planned for food and games, and tried to find a speaker… which we couldn’t. We invited our former colleague and college group founder to speak, John Sun, but he could not do it, so instead I spoke as well as the other college leader Zephaniah. That made an already busy weekend even busier for us, but while we really wanted a guest speaker (and I’m sure the students did too, as they are probably tired of hearing us), we didn’t mind putting in the extra work.
The Theme: Mathew 22:37
We selected the famous verse Matthew 22:37 as the theme for the retreat, which is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We did talk about the distinctions within it, but the emphasis wasn’t so much about breaking down the human being into constituent parts (that’s not the emphasis of the verse, either) as it was about loving God with our whole being. I opened up with a message from the passage that contains the verse and the rest of the messages touched upon it, though they drew from other parts of Scripture. Our workshops were also somewhat related to it, with Zephaniah going over spiritual disciplines and me giving an introduction to apologetics.
The overarching idea was to teach the students about loving God with everything, and we wanted to characterize love for them in a biblical manner rather than rely on overly emotional descriptions of love. In the spirit of the popular “love language” categories, I told the students, “God’s love language is obedience,” referencing 1 John 2:5. Ultimately, we wanted the students to walk away with a clear idea of loving God through obedience to his Word, particularly the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We wanted to find a guest speaker and I’m not much of a retreat speaker myself, but I was nonetheless thankful we got to spend this time teaching something like this.
This was the first retreat I’ve ever been to where we cooked all of our own food. I oversaw the cooking team, and it was a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun. We did our shopping the day before we left and did some pre-cutting to lessen the amount of prep time we’d have to spend at the retreat site. I’m not entirely sure we’ll do it again, though the students enjoyed cooking as well as the food itself quite a bit. For sure, not many retreat sites are going to offer Korean bibimbap for a meal ;).
It was amazing seeing all the students help out and serve their peers. The kitchen was seemingly always bustling with activity: Students were cutting, cleaning, cooking, making iced tea, etc. I was very thankful for all of them, and I felt like I got closer to everyone who helped make the meals. It was great fellowship.
We did goof up sometimes; we forgot several pieces of equipment, such as cutting knives, bowls for mixing, and serving plates, but we either improvised with what we had or made a run to the store that wasn’t too far away. It definitely added to the “college” feel of the retreat.
Fun and Fellowship
The first night, I was the last one up as I had some things to do: Strange for a college fellowship, even though I am known to be a night owl. I think the students were pooped by the traffic-heavy drive up there. The second day, however, was packed with stuff to do, and perhaps too many things. People ran in the morning, there was an early morning devotional, and then our day started with breakfast. We had workshops and organized games as well to go along with worship and the messages. At the end, we even made a campfire at a designated spot outside, though many students didn’t want to go outside because it actually became quite cold. However, those that braved the cold had a lot of fun making the fire itself and then cooking s’mores and even bacon over it (my idea; it was good stuff). We initially planned more for the campfire time, but heck, good snacks aren’t bad either.
During free time, many students busted out instruments and played tons of praise music. The night ended with some students staying up way too late playing Mafia and also probably making too much noise, but heck, it’s a college retreat. Gotta go all out. Surprisingly, they were not all zombies the next morning during the final message.
Overall, I was very thankful to God for the retreat; it was a great time of learning, fellowship, and rest (well, for some people), and I couldn’t have asked for a better first retreat. We learned a lot about how to plan one and God was very gracious when it came to our mistakes. I wish we could have been out there a little longer, especially since the weather all of a sudden got better, but the whole point is to come back to the “real world” and apply what we learned from Scripture.
I was also very thankful for all of the students. In addition to the cooking team, many students helped plan games, set up tables and chairs, and lead worship. The worship overall was excellent even though they didn’t have a ton of time to prepare. It was humbling to see how unselfish and serving many of them were, and I know that’s God’s doing.
Not everything was perfect, but it was ultimately what I want out of any retreat: Getting to know people better, having some fun, eating some good food, and growing closer to God by studying the Bible and spending time in community and prayer. Not bad at all.