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Back-to-School Family Retreat

When family life seems like a race with no finish line, use this retreat to help families set their lives in order.

Soccer practice, yardwork, church activities, a briefcase of work hauled home from the office, and homework all around. It seems there's never an end to families' busyness!
Help your families get organized with a back-to-school retreat that'll guide them in scheduling activities.

During this retreat, parents and children will
*evaluate their priorities according to their use of time,
*complete one month's planning of events, and
*look for ways to bring more balance into their lives.

6:30 p.m.-Hurry, Hurry
6:45 p.m.-Drive-Through Dinner
7:30 p.m.-Share Art
8:15 p.m.-Popcorn Good Nights
8:40 p.m.-Board Games

8:30 a.m.-Breakfast
9:30 a.m.-Juggling
9:45 a.m.-Setting Priorities
10:45 a.m.-Warning Ball
11:30 a.m.-Lunch
1:00 p.m.-What's Gotta Go?
2:00 p.m.-Balloon Shepherds
2:30 p.m.-Free Time
4:30 p.m.-Family Calendar Meetings
5:00 p.m.-Dinner
5:45 p.m.-Wrap Up

Sandwich ingredients, chips, drinks, cups, plates, napkins, paper, crayons, popcorn, pingpong balls or marshmallows, pencils, a Bible, Nerf or other soft balls, large blank calendars, colored pencils, balloons, brooms, and chairs. Have family members bring their personal calendars or planners.

*Hurry, Hurry-Have each family prepare their meal-only spread the ingredients all over the room so they have to frantically prepare.

*Say: You have only five minutes to prepare your meal. Go.
Observe how families work to accomplish the task. Call time after five minutes. Tell families to finish their meal preparation and find an area to sit with just their family.

*Drive-Through Dinner-Have families arrange chairs in groups with chairs facing one direction. Have each family sit as if they're in a car. Have family members discuss these questions as they eat:* How well did we achieve our goal? How did it feel to be so busy?

How does being busy affect our family at home?

*Share Art-Give families paper and crayons. Have family members each draw pictures showing what others in their family like to do most. Then have family members explain their pictures. Have them discuss:* How well did others know your interests? What other things do you want our family to know about you? What did you learn about others in our family?

How can we be sure each family member gets to do what he or she enjoys most?

*Popcorn Good Nights-Give each family a bowl of popcorn.

Have one person feed a piece of popcorn to each family member, saying "I like you because..." and filling in the blank. Then pass the bowl to another family member who does the same thing. Continue until everyone has had a turn. Then have families share sentence prayers, hugs, and the rest of the popcorn.

*Board Games-Bring out games for everyone to play until bedtime.

*Juggling-Give each person three pingpong balls or other small items such as marshmallows. Ask everyone to juggle one item first, then add the second item. Have people who aren't able to juggle two items sit down. Then add a third item. Again, have those who can't juggle three items sit down. If anyone is still standing, add more items until you have a champion juggler. Applaud the champion.

*Ask: What makes juggling difficult? easy? When do you feel as if you're juggling activities in real life?

*Say: To keep life from seeming like a juggling contest, we have to be organized.

Read aloud Psalm 90:12 and Ephesians 5:15-16. Have families discuss:* What connection does use of time have to do with being wise? What do these verses tell us that God wants us to do with our time? How can applying these verses to our home life help our family?

*Setting Priorities-Give each person a sheet of paper and a pencil.

*Say: Think about regular commitments you have. We'll call these Predictable Events.

These are activities such as church meetings, sports practice, clubs, Bible studies, work, and school.

Have everyone make a list of Predictable Events. Parents and older children can help younger children.

Then *say: Number the items on your list in the order that you like them.

When everyone is finished, *say: Let's take a break from our lists and read about two women who had different approaches to life.

Read aloud Luke 10:38-42, and have each family discuss these questions:* Which sister are you most like? Are you happy about this? Why or why not? How does your ranking of activities reflect which sister you're most like? Which activities not on your list do you wish were on you list?

*Say: Add to your list items such as leisure time, family fun, and other things you discussed.

Have family members discuss their revised lists. Then take a break.

*Warning Ball-Form pairs. Line up with partners facing each other. Have partners stand about 5 feet apart. Give all the players on one side of the line a soft ball such as a tennis or Nerf ball.

Explain that the players with the balls will be throwing them to their partners. The tricky part is that the person catching the ball must keep his or her eyes closed until the ball is released. The thrower gives the warning that the ball has been thrown by yelling, "Look!" At that time, the catcher may open his or her eyes and quickly catch the ball. Have participants lob the ball softly so it's easy to catch.

Have participants try once or twice with their eyes open, then try with their eyes closed. No one is eliminated if the ball is dropped. Simply try again and again until the ball is caught. Then have catchers move back 3 feet and toss the ball to their partners in the same manner.

Repeat the game with partners not opening their eyes, but letting their partners know the ball has been tossed.

Afterward, *ask: How did your warning system work?

Can you think of a better way to let your partner know what's coming? How do you feel when you're surprised by an event that wasn't scheduled well with the rest of the family?

*Say: In this game, we warned our partners by communicating with words. It's that way with our schedules too. We need to let family members know what we're doing so there are no surprises.

*What's Gotta Go?-Have families retrieve their lists from the "Setting Priorities" activity. Give each family one calendar with large daily spaces, and give each family member a different color pencil to represent his or her activities. Families may also choose a different color to represent all-family activities.

Using their Predictable Events lists and personal calendars, have families plan their schedules for the upcoming month. Have them write notes in appropriate colors as family members identify regular commitments.

*Say: Now that you've listed Predictable Events, add in Occasional Events. These would be things such as doctors' appointments, special church meetings, or other activities that don't happen regularly. If you don't know these right now, you can add them later.

Allow time to do this.

*Say: As you look at your calendars, discuss how activities affect other family members. For example, sports practice may be a child's activity, but if it requires a parent or older sibling to drive, it affects others.

*Ask: Which items on your calendars affect several family members? Are there days or weeks that seem too busy? If yes, what can be done to cut down on the busyness?
Have families make necessary adjustments to their calendars during their discussions. Then take a break.

*Balloon Shepherds-Give each family five balloons of one color and a broom. Give each family a different color. Have families inflate their balloons. Set two chairs at the far end of the room about 3 feet apart. Have families choose one member to "shepherd" their balloons between the chairs using the broom. Every 15 seconds, blow a whistle and switch Shepherds within each family. Congratulate the family that rounds up all its balloons first.

Play again if time allows.

*Say: Just as the balloons seemed to be going in different directions, family members are often going in different directions too. This makes it tough to keep families organized. Let's get back to our calendars.

*Family Calendar Meetings-Ask families to pencil in weekly 10-minute family meetings where they'll look at the coming week to fill in and evaluate events. Have them decide where to hang their Family Calendars at home.

Also, have families discuss ways they can make communicating easier, such as having a message board.

*Ask: Is there a central location for phone messages and notes from teachers or coaches?

Think of other ways to let others know your schedule and any changes to it.

*Wrap Up-*Say: We can grow as a family if we use our time wisely and keep a balance of work and rest.

Ask everyone to remember Mary and Martha. Have family members again share which sister they're most like, then tell one reason this is good and one way they'd like to grow more like the other sister. For example, Janice might say, "I'm most like Mary. This is good because I take time to laugh each day. I'd like to grow more like Martha in remembering to make my bed before school each morning."

Then have families pray together and thank God for each family member. Have them ask God to help them use their new calendar to provide more time for enjoying each other.



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