For Youth Workers Post

Sleep Retreat

Kara Lassen Oliver

This Sleep Retreat allows people to slow down and to honor themselves in body, mind, and soul. The goal of the retreat is to rest.



Read through the session ahead of time and gather the supplies you will need.

Choose a location with plenty of space for each person to rest, as well as space for worship and group activities. The sleeping areas should be comfortable (not sleeping bags on the floor) and kept dark during the day and night.

Invite the students to wear pajamas (modest, of course), and give them permission to stay in their PJs all weekend.

Ask people to bring games, movies, and healthy snacks to share with the group, as well as toiletries, a Bible, a journal, and some things that will help them feel more relaxed by the end of the retreat. Decide whether or not to allow personal music; many youth relax by listening to iPods and CD players. Provide a TV and DVD player.

Options: Invite a massage therapist to provide massages, or offer individual meetings with a spiritual director.



7 pm — Arrival and Getting Settled

As people arrive, show them to their sleeping areas. Allow them to settle in and to explore. Let them know that the group will meet together at 8:00 p.m.

8 pm — Snacks and Free Time

Provide supplies for making yogurt smoothies with fresh fruit, juice, and granola.

10 pm — Evening Worship: Refreshing the Soul

Welcome everyone to the sleep retreat. Invite people to sit in a circle on the floor. Darken the room and light a candle.

ASK: “How is it with your soul?” “What do you need most from this weekend?” Allow several minutes of silence as people pray and reflect on these questions.

Invite volunteers to share their reflections. Then offer a prayer, lifting to God the joys and concerns of the community.

10:30 pm — Sleep: Refreshing the Body

Encourage everyone to go to bed at a decent hour, to sleep, and to let their bodies be restored by a good night’s rest. Let them know they can sleep until noon the next day.


Morning: Refreshing Mind, Body, and Soul

Allow people to wake up at their leisure and to help themselves to healthy breakfast foods.

Whenever they get up, ask people to start the day with an hour of silence. They may take a walk, read a book, do their daily devotions. Encourage them to use this time of silence to restore their minds and senses by easing into the day.

Provide a variety of devotional materials: copies of devozine, Bibles, journals, hand labyrinths, prayer beads, icons, art supplies. Encourage people to refresh their souls.

As people complete their times of silence, provide recreational supplies: Frisbees, a variety of balls (football, basketball, soccer), movies, yoga DVDs, juggling balls, jump ropes, paints, play dough, bubbles. Bring supplies that will refresh their minds and bodies, engage their creativity and imagination, and get them moving.

12:00 noon — Healthy Lunch and Free Time

During free time, some people may go back to sleep. Others may be exhilarated by having time to do whatever they want. Some may enjoy the time alone; others will sit and talk all afternoon. But some may be uneasy without a schedule. Have ideas in mind to suggest to these young people throughout the day: hiking, flag football, board games, and crafts.

5:30 pm — Healthy Supper

6:30 pm — Closing Worship

The Lord be with you.
And also with you. Amen.

Invite the group to sing “Sanctuary,” a Taize chorus, or a group favorite.

Indoors or outside, set up three prayer stations —“Body,” “Mind,” and “Soul” — as described below. Place in each one a Bible, the suggested props, and a copy of the instructions noted below. Invite people to spend time in each of these prayer stations.

[Provide pillows and space to lie down.]
Instructions: Read Genesis 2:2–3. Lie down. Reflect on the last month. When have you rested? How do you feel when you rest? What is God’s desire for your health and for the care of your body? What have you learned during this retreat about taking care of your body?”

[Provide several bottles of bubbles.]
Instructions: Read Isaiah 38:15–20. As you blow bubbles, let go of the anxieties that clutter your mind, the problems you cannot solve, and the questions you cannot answer. Offer them to God.

[Provide sets of prayer beads.]
Instructions: Read Psalm 23. Hold the prayer beads in your hands. As you touch each bead, offer prayers of thanksgiving for the shepherds in your life who have brought you to God and kept you close to God’s heart, for the green pastures and still waters where you have rested, for strength as you walk through the dark valleys. Pray that goodness and mercy may flow from God, through you, into the world.

Invite people to gather as a group and to talk about what the retreat has meant to them. What were the highlights? the frustrations? What will they do differently now that they have had time to rest?

Ask people to name their joys and concerns, concluding each prayer with the words “Lord, in your mercy . . .” Invite the group to respond to each prayer by saying, “Hear our prayer.”

Have available copies of Psalm 16, preferably from The Message. Close the retreat by praying together Psalm 16.

—Group Gathering from devozine Guide for Mentors and Small Groups (May/June 2007). Copyright © 2007 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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