Every youth pastor knows the power behind a weekend youth retreat. It has the power to build unity and trust within the youth group under the illusion of fun and games. Use this handy youth retreat checklist to help plan the perfect getaway with your teens.

1.   Set your dates. Parents and students need plenty of advance notice for youth group trips, especially if they cost more than $100 per student. Plan to have your dates set in stone 5 months in advance.

2.   Find a location. Often you can hold a retreat in a hotel meeting room or at some inexpensive cabins in the woods or mountains. Call around to some local summer campgrounds to see if they rent out their facilities for church retreats during the off-season. Secure a location 4 months before the youth retreat.

3.   Set an itinerary. Choose your speaker, band and schedule for the weekend. This needs to be done to the detail. If you are holding the retreat in the city, decide what you will do for entertainment. Perhaps ice skating, a trip to the local mall, paintball, an amusement park or a sporting event? Set your itinerary within 4 months of the retreat.

Mission Trips from Start to Finish – Download

4.   Create a budget. Be sure to include rooming, t-shirt costs, food, gasoline, transportation rentals, travel insurance, tickets, speaker fees, band costs, meeting facility fees, parking and anything else that could be of cost. Students are not good at managing their money, so try to make it as all-inclusive as possible. This also creates less confusion for parents. The church will likely want this submitted within 3 months of the trip.

5.   Plan youth group fundraisers. Fundraisers come in a multitude of options. You can sell butterbraid pastries, cookie dough, do a car wash, make a church calendar to sell, host a fundraiser dinner, or just about anything else you can think of. See the fundraising section on this website for more ideas, or visit FastTrack Fundraisers for more information. Hold fundraisers before the deposit and balance dates. (See below)

6.   Hold a parent meeting. Parents want to be in the know. Do not rely on the kids to tell parents what is going on. Insert the trip in the church bulletin and announce it during weekly announcements. Give the parents all the details including contact information and due dates. This is also a good time to give out dress code and conduct expectations. Hold the youth parent meeting 2-3 months in advance.

7.  Set deposit and balance due dates. This will help you get an idea of how many students will be attending the retreat. It is a good idea to have all balances in within 3 to 4 weeks of the trip.

8.   Arrange for youth chaperones. Chaperones can be parents, youth leaders or pastors in the church. Do a background check before leaving any student in a room with an unrelated adult. Make sure chaperones are of an accountable age. You should have at least one chaperone for every 4 students of the same sex. Secure chaperones 4 weeks in advance.

9.   Arrange transportation. If you are renting a van or a bus, the sooner you book the better. If you don’t do it at least 4 weeks in advance, you may be taking a caravan of cars.

10. Order t-shirts. These can be ordered from most companies about 3 weeks in advance. I made our last order at Custom Ink. The tshirts were at my front door in less than a week and in 3 times better condition than the place that I ordered from before. I can vouch for them personally, and they usually have free shipping.
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11.  Send out release forms. Make sure that all parents have signed a release form within one week of the event. See the “free stuff” section of this website for a free downloadable release form.

12.  Purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance can be purchased up to the day of the trip.