Men's retreatThirty years ago, almost every church sponsored an annual men’s retreat. Typically, about half the men in the church would gather at a wilderness camp for a weekend of light recreation, heavy foods, loud singing and fresh Bible teaching from a guest speaker brought in for the occasion.

But in recent years, men’s retreats have become scarce. Those churches that still offer them have seen attendance dwindle. It’s often difficult to get the younger generation of men to attend.

The problem with the typical men’s retreat is been-there-done-that. It’s basically an extended church service with games and grub sprinkled in. We follow the same script as Sunday morning – sing songs and listen to a speaker – only we do a lot more of it. Why give up your entire weekend and pay $125 when you can just go to church on Sunday and get the same experience for free?

It’s time to re-design the men’s retreat. If it’s just another church service, men won’t come. We need a format that is:

  • Honoring to God
  • Designed around the learning style of guys
  • Different from church
  • Masculine without being macho
  • Compelling to men under 30.

A few years ago, I began re-engineering my teaching. I used to teach like everyone else: talk for 45 minutes, and then give the guys an opportunity to discuss. But it wasn’t working. Despite my best efforts, eyes started drooping after about 20 minutes. During discussion, men often had a hard time recalling what I had taught them.

So about three years ago, I began following a 10-10 format. I speak for 10 minutes, and then I give the guys 10 minutes to answer questions in small groups. This keeps the guys engaged, helps them build friendships around the table, and lets them wrestle with the truth together. Nobody falls asleep.

My presentation is completely screen-driven. I use lots of visuals, because guys remember what they see. I also use a fair amount of humor and do some unexpected things (like throwing furniture and setting items on fire) to keep things interesting.

These teaching methods are working very well, but now I’m feeling the need to overhaul the rest of the retreat process. And I’m looking for your help.

Have you been to a men’s retreat lately? What worked and what didn’t? Are there alternative ways to help men connect with the Lord, besides listening to a speaker and singing worship choruses? How can we use the recreation times to greater effect? What do you enjoy doing when you’re with other Christian guys?

Please share your ideas. Comments are open.