We’ve been involved in growth group weekends away for many years now and have always found it a really valuable thing to do. It’s pretty much impossible to leave without feeling like you’ve become a lot closer as a group and as though you know each other on a much deeper level. It’s really quite amazing that this can happen in one short weekend, but I’ve found it really does.
… With Kids
This year though, for the first time, it wasn’t as simple for us to make the decision to go, because we had a toddler and a 6 month old to consider.
We knew we definitely wanted to go but we really had to give a bit more thought to the logistics of it all, and for a while we weren’t sure if it was actually going to work out that we could attend.
Most people in our growth group would prefer to spend less money and go camping rather than stay in other accommodation. But for us, camping wasn’t an option. I’m not good at camping at the best of times, let alone with 2 little kids and health issues of my own to try and manage. As a group we all sat down and discussed options that would be a good compromise for everyone, and our growth group leaders suggested a campsite that also had cabins onsite for those that didn’t want to camp. So we all agreed on the dates and location a few months out from when we actually planned to go away and the others in our group booked their places at the camp site.
… thought and planning as a group
Unfortunately though, we weren’t organised enough and the cabins had booked out before we got in contact, so we decided to stay down the road from everyone else in an apartment. We were a bit worried this would mean we weren’t going to be very involved with the group, but we worked out a rough weekend timetable as a group before going away so that we could incorporate times when we’d be able to join them onsite so that we were still involved.
Obviously because we weren’t camping with everyone there were some aspects to the weekend that we missed out on but we still got to share most meals together, had a day at the beach together, went to church together, and had everyone join us for dinner and board games at our apartment one night too which was great. We still felt very much a part of the group despite not being there for everything.
… thought and planning as a family
Things do get complicated with kids; we had to pack pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, we had to consider nap times, we had to take it in turns participating in activities that the kids couldn’t do so that one of us was always looking after them etc. so yes, it does require more thought and planning, but it is absolutely still possible to not only jump the hurdles and make it happen, but to actually enjoy the weekend too.
In reflection of my own experience this year, my top 3 tips would be:
1. Be open and honest
Be open and honest about what you can and can’t do, and explain your needs to the group early on so that when the weekend is planned everyone’s different needs can be accommodated. There are many different ways you can do a weekend away, and what each group decides to do will look a bit different so know there is flexibility. Having these discussions in our growth group has been something I’ve really appreciated.
2. Be organised
Be organised and book your accommodation early. Ask other families who’ve been on growth group weekends away before for their advice to help you plan. Think in advance about food and whatever equipment you’ll need to keep your family running while you’re away, so that you aren’t rushing around on the day trying to get everything together and then worrying if you’ve forgotten something. Being organised is something we could certainly have improved on this year, so we’ve learnt a lot for next time!
3. Be committed
Be committed to going. Sometimes unavoidable things come up which will mean you mightn’t be able to attend and that’s understandable. But if you can make it along, even if you only make a day trip visit, I’m sure you’ll find it worth your while to do it. There were times this year when we thought about not going because it seemed too hard, but we also knew it would be a great time away which we’d find really valuable – and looking back I’m really glad we put in the effort to do it because it was.
I love growth group weekends away, and would encourage anyone in a growth group to attend their weekend away where possible. We’ve found that it’s not only us that gets something out of it, but the whole group really benefits when everyone is able to make it along.
We had a great time away with our group this year – it really brought us together as a group, and is always nice to do some social activities together too, so now we’re just looking forward to seeing what’s in store for next year!