Cluster able to drastically cut cost of youth ski retreat

Posted: February 21, 2011 by efenster in Ideas, Stories

  How can you drastically cut the cost of a weekend youth ski retreat from $130 to only $35?  By doing it as a cluster group!  The following article written by Rev. Bob Vale, pastor of the Osceola United Methodist Church, explains how his cluster group did just that… 

Less is More!!!

          Our cluster churches worked together this past month to host a youth winter retreat that was highly successful in many ways.   The heart of the retreat between five different United Methodist congregations was to accomplish something we could do much better together than we could do as a single church. 

          The pastors and youth directors of the Mishawaka Best Cluster wanted to put together a spiritual winter ski retreat for the teens in our churches.   As we began to work together to accomplish this goal we began to approach the typical plans and steps to put such a retreat together.  We first selected a camp close to the ski lodge we wanted to attend.  We also chose a very dynamic youth speaker from South Carolina to speak to our teens over the weekend.  

          As we put all the finishing touches to our retreat experience together, the total cost for each teen was about $130.00 per student, Which is about an average cost for such a retreat.  The brochures looked amazing, the excitement was high, and we began to talk to the teens in our churches about signing up for this wonderful winter experience. 

Because of the high cost for one weekend experience and the struggling economy, many of the teens were simply not able to go.  Many of the youth pastors showed concern for the cost considering they were also saving scholarship money for summer camp for all of their students.   Trying to raise funds for both winter and summer camping experiences seemed a bit daunting.

          As the youth directors and pastors talked about the difficulty in getting teens to sign up, they decided to see just how cheap they could make the winter ski trip retreat for their teens.  They knew the spiritual experience for the teens would be amazing, but the price of $130.00 per student seemed a bit too high.  As we put our heads together we first decided not to stay at a camp in Michigan, but rather decided to stay at our own churches instead.   We also asked each cluster church to donate one meal for the weekend.  This was a savings of $80.00 per student.

          We also asked each of the cluster churches to help pay for the speaker rather than place that amount on the teens.  This was another savings of about $15.00 per student.   Each church took care of their own transportation and publicity cost.  The only expense that was left was the cost of the skiing.  The individual cost to ski was $45.00 per student.  However, by adding all of our teens together, the ski lodge gave us a group rate, which took $10.00 off each student’s cost.  Each student only paid $35.00 for both ski rental and lift ticket for a full day of skiing.

          Therefore the total cost for the weekend was not $130.00 per student but only $35.00 per student.   In December when we talked to our teens we only had a handful of teens who were interested.  By reducing the cost down to $35.00, we had a total of 70 teens attend this wonderful weekend retreat.  Less was Definitely More!  

          Our first night the teens were hosted by the Osceola United Methodist Church.  The ladies and men of the church cooked a wonderful supper for all the teens.  One of the churches had a great teen praise band who led the worship and a youth group drama was also performed during the evening of worship.  The youth speaker (Chip Herring) was amazing and the teens absolutely loved him.   After the evening worship service was over, many of the teens took showers at the church and parsonage and then went to bed. 

          Early the next morning, the Middlebury UMC cooked a delicious hot breakfast for the teens to get them ready for a day of skiing the snowy slopes.   Each church was waiting in the parking lot with their church vans or busses to take the group to the slopes about an hour away.  The Swiss Valley Ski Resort was more than happy to welcome our large group and give them special treatment.   They even gave us our own eating area.  The Albright UMC ordered 25 large pizzas, chips and canned drinks for all the teens for lunch.  I don’t think there was a slice of pizza left after 70 hungry teens dug into their favorite meal. 

          The teens finished skiing at about five p.m. and got into the church buses to go to the Mishawaka First UMC for an amazing supper prepared by the adults of their church.  (The soft ice cream was a big hit with all the teens!)   After supper we had our second worship experience.  The youth praise team led worship for a second time and a different youth group preformed a meaningful drama.  Our youth speaker challenged the teens and had them laughing and enjoying the experience.  The evening ended around 9:15 p.m. and all the teens went home to get a good night’s rest and were at their home churches for morning worship on Sunday.  (End of Day two.)

          Day three (Sunday) allowed us one more afternoon / evening experience at our third church.  The Willow Creek UMC hosted the teens with a great supper meal prepared by the UMW of their church.   Following the supper, the teens went to the sanctuary for their third worship experience.  Because we had a lot of high school students, we asked a local Christian college if they would bring one of their traveling singing groups to perform and share a bit about their college. (Bethel College).

          The Bethel College singers were amazing and the teens really enjoyed their music.  The youth praise band also played for a third time.  Our youth speaker challenged the teens one last time and touched their hearts.   All in all this was a wonderful retreat and spiritually uplifting for our teens.

          By working together as a cluster of churches and using our own facilities and gifts, we were able to do a “great thing together, that perhaps we could not have done as a single church.”  Many thanks go to the pastors and youth directors who all pitched in to do something different than the typical retreat.  I like to think we “Re-Thought” a better way to make disciples for Jesus Christ to the teens in our churches.  

To God be the glory for working together!!!

Pastor Bob Vale

Osceola United Methodist Church

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