This is the first of two articles about hosting a retreat for children preparing for their First Holy Communion and their parents. This article covers the preparations, planning, and materials needed for the retreat. An outline for the retreat will be provided in the second article.
One of my favorite activities to do with the children is Come to the Table, our First Communion Retreat. This retreat has become an opportunity for family catechesis, when our children who are preparing for First Communion and their parents come together and learn about the Eucharist and what it means in our lives.
There are two parts to the retreat: the first part of the retreat is a prayer service, while the second part includes fun activities for the families to enjoy.
Duration: Approximately two hours.
Planning: At the beginning of the religious education program year, provide families with the date of the retreat. Approximately six weeks before the event, advertise the retreat in the parish bulletin and website.
Location: If you have the space, host the first part of the retreat in the church and the second part in the school cafeteria or parish hall. However, if you have only one space available, designate a section of the area as a prayer space for the first part of the retreat, and then use the rest of the space for the second part. Be sure that the space is set up the day before the retreat; this will give you the freedom to greet the participants, coordinate with volunteers, and address any unexpected situations that always seem to arise.
Volunteers: Volunteers can help you prepare the kits (see below), welcome families as they arrive, provide breakfast the day of the retreat, help you lead the prayer service, and supervise the activities. The exact number will vary based on the size of the group. Designate one volunteer to take pictures of the event to post in the parish bulletin and on the parish website. Ask the parish priest to lead the prayer service; if he is unavailable to stay, invite him to pray a blessing at the start of the retreat.
Materials: Before the retreat, prepare the following materials for each family.
- Food and Snacks: Include a light breakfast or snacks as the group gathers at the beginning of the retreat. If you have a large number of participants, you can ask the parents to bring snacks.
- Welcome Kit: Each family receives a kit that includes a copy of the prayer service, a prayer for families to say at home when they gather to eat their bread, and name tags for parents and children. If you have the time, prepare the name tags in advance; if not, you can ask families to write their names on their name tags when they arrive.
- Bread Kit: In a plastic baggie, measure 2 cups of white, all-purpose flour; 1 cup of whole wheat flour; 1 pack (2 teaspoons) of quick-rise yeast (2 tsp.); and 1 tsp. of salt. Make one kit for each family. Include with the kit instructions on how to bake the bread at home and any other ingredients they will need. You can buy the flour in bulk from a local supermarket, and the yeast comes in packets of three.
- Banner Kit: This kit includes all the materials families will need to make a Communion banner during the retreat. The kit includes a large piece of white felt to serve as the background for the banner, a chalice made from yellow felt, a piece of purple felt to use for their grapes, and a piece of beige felt to represent the host. Make sure each kit includes scissors and glue.
In the next article, I will share the outline and schedule of the retreat.
The God’s Gift programs for First Eucharist and First Reconciliation come with DVDs to enhance your presentation and your engagement of the children.