Picture this. You walk into a dark room. Strobe lights are flashing. Black lights are glowing. The music is loud. And everyone around you is glowing with bright colors! Green, pink, yellow, white, blue. The colors are bouncing up and down with the rhythm of the music. Welcome to GLOW IN THE DARK. This was the best retreat I’ve ever been a part of. Let me take you step by step.
For months ahead of time we promoted our annual high school retreat. We started with a simple theme launch video. The theme? Glow in the Dark. All the video said was glow sticks, neon, and dubstep. And that was enough.
We also tweeted pictures of glow sticks and black lights every week. A month before we the retreat, our students were already sending us pictures of suitcases filled with glow sticks and neon tape.
For some reason, nothing builds hype like glow sticks and black lights.
At the retreat center, we held three worship sessions in a large worship space at our location. We set up black lights and strobes all over the room. We also brought lamps from home, with regular black light bulbs. We strung up bright green and yellow streamers all over the ceiling and walls.
When the students entered the space, we handed out hundreds of glow sticks (Dollar General). Instant energy. The students walked into the room much like the description above.
In each session we played games that would work well with the black lights. Below are a few.
We had different colored neon paper, wall-friendly tape, and scissors. We asked each student to create a crazy neon snowflake and post it anywhere around the room. It ended in hundreds of bright snowflakes (that showed up in the black lights) all over the room.
Supplies: neon colored paper, scissors, wall-friendly tape
Neon/Hula-hoop Fashion Show
We unrolled white paper down the center aisle. We then asked for volunteers to dance down the aisle while hula-hooping. It was a bonus that the hula-hoops we already had happened to be neon colors.
Supplies: giant roll of white paper (often found in preschools), hula-hoops
30 Second Dance Contest
I asked the kids to jump, dance, whatever and whoever was craziest got a prize. Easy and awesome.
Bright Lifesaver Pass
I bought neon straws and white, wintergreen lifesavers, and we did your traditional lifesaver pass.
Supplies: neon straws, wintergreen lifesaver mints
Feather Down the Line
We got white feathers and each team of kids had to get in a line and blow the feather into the air, to the next person in line. If it touched the floor, it had to go back to the first person. With dubsmash music and strobes, you can turn boring feathers into entertaining feathers.
Supplies: white feathers
For the spiritual focus of the retreat, our speaker looked at Matthew 5:14-16. He also used the example of the glow stick. When you crack a glow stick you are actually breaking a glass container. The breaking of that container mixes the chemical on the inside with the chemical on the outside. When the chemicals mix, the stick glows. When our spirit mixes with the Holy Spirit, our lives begin to glow as well.
We broke up into small groups after each worship session. Our questions focused largely on what it means to GLOW IN THE DARK. What does it mean to be in the light? How do we glow in the dark at home? At school?
3 Minute Dance Party
On the last night of our retreats, we usually do something crazy. On the last night of this retreat, the worship room was locked at 10:30p. So At 10:27, all the students came back and we turned the music up and had one last dance party. We promoted it throughout the weekend as our end-of-the-world dance party. The students taped neon duct tape all over themselves. They took the rest of the neon streamers and decorated each other. The dance party began. After each minute, I would turn the music down and yell out the amount of time left, and like a shot of espresso, they immediately went crazier.
We purchased the majority of the items we used for worship and games from Amazon and Wal-Mart. They are super easy to find.
Why Glow in the Dark?
This retreat helped us gain some momentum. Few things cause instant energy like glow sticks and black lights. Glow in the Dark is something that our students still talk about. At a time when our ministry needed some momentum, Glow in the Dark pumped everybody up. Students and parents came home refreshed and energized to take on the rest of the school year! God works through many things, including weird, glowing chemicals!
I still have all our small group material, sermons, music, and videos that we used for Glow in the Dark. Please don’t hesitate to email me at andrew.chappell(at)dunwoodyumc(dot)org if this is something you might be interested in. It is a great way to give your youth ministry a boost in the middle of the year.