Creative Retreat Development

To live a creative lifestyle is to model our life after God. One can’t help but look at the world around us and marvel at God’s creativity. Here are a few things to keep in mind to enhance the creative process in your own life.

Time: One of the biggest misconceptions I have witnessed about creativity is that it happens on the fly. While I, like many youth workers, like leading on the fly, creativity takes work and time. It is extremely difficult to be creative the night or even a week before an event. I have found that I need to block out time in my schedule in order to be creative. Blocking out time helps us to be purposeful with our time investment and helps us to better utilize our time.  I know blocking out time can be difficult;  the Youth Ministry culture is guilty of often moving from one event to the next without ever pausing to reflect or adequately prepare for the next event.

Work:  Developing a creative retreat takes a lot of work. Creativity takes practice and work. I have a few friends who have careers in the arts; they work harder than just about anyone else I know.  One needs to cultivate his or her own creativity and work at it repeatedly as it is a skill that needs to be practiced in order for it to grow.

Space: It is important to seek a space to be creative in. For some of us this might mean a physical space, and for others this is a space inside us. Either way, it is important to find a space to do your creative work.

Inspiration: Finally, use what is inspirational for you. Personally, I find that I am the most creative when I am able to process ideas out loud with other people.  Discover what inspires you and use that method to enhance your creativity.

Examples: Here are some of the retreat ideas I have tried over the years that have been successful:

Prayer Labyrinths and Prayer Stations:  There is a great Prayer Labyrinth kit called “The Prayer Path: A Christ-centered Labyrinth Experience” by Johnny Baker, Steve Collins, and Kevin Draper.  The labyrinth will set you back about fifty bucks but well worth the investment. One of the things I did to reduce the setup on the prayer labyrinth was to sew about nine king sized sheets together and painted the labyrinth on the sheets.  Most retreats I have lead usually has some sort of prayer element or prayer station.

Physical Activities: One of the creative elements we can develop is kinesthetic, or physical activities that require full body movement. I believe students learn best when they are fully physically engaged. One retreat we focused on “Carrying our Cross”, I had my interns build enough crosses for all the students; and the students literally had the opportunity to carry a cross. Other retreats we have participated in “foot washing”, used clay to express our vision for God’s New Kingdom, used stones to display the burden of sin we all carry. Physical activities can take a retreat to whole new level.

Books: Finally, I would recommend a couple of books that will help guide you as you plan your next retreat. One book that is valuable is “Creative Teaching Methods” by Marlene D. LeFever. While the book is somewhat dated it has some invaluable insights. I would also recommend “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron.  This book is focused on developing your creative spirit. I think it does a great job of focusing on the work that really needs to be done if we want to develop our creativity. Finally I would recommend, the “Uncommon Prayer” series by Steve Case he does some real creative things with liturgy.


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