A Multi-Generational Women’s Outdoor Retreat? Yes, Please!

"multi-generational retreats" with image of a group of women at a north woods lodge in the winter

The winter of 2023 will be my fourth winter retreat in northern Minnesota with a bunch of other outdoorsy women of multiple generations.

We enjoy the amazing hospitality of Adventurous Christians (on the Gunflint Trail, in northern Minnesota). They feed us delicious home-cooked meals, give us a warm place to sleep and take us on numerous outdoor activities in the snow.

But one of the main reasons I love these retreats is to spend time with a wonderful group of mostly 20 and 30-something women outside of church.

And these younger women are equally as excited to spend time with me and the other “older women” of the group. Why?

We’re all members of a church in the Twin Cities that majors on multi-generational interaction. We’re used to it and have grown to love it.

It helps that my 28-year old daughter is friends with all the 20-somethings, and several of them are former piano students of mine.

But the way our church leadership has focused on connecting the generations has been a huge factor in our belief in its value, and even necessity.

women getting ready for snowshoeing
Ready for a snowshoe excursion!

If this isn’t something you’ve thought about or pursued in your own life—close friendships with women 20-30 years older or younger than you—here are some reasons why you should:

Why Cross-Generational Friendships are So Enriching

When I was a 20-something, and I guess even back in high school, a couple women from my church who were then in their 40s or 50s poured time, effort and friendship into my young life.

They mentored me (informally—mentoring wasn’t really a thing back then). They encouraged me. They made room for my interests and gifts. And they did this over a period of several years.

It meant so much to me then. And I look back with thankfulness on that time, now 30 years and more later. I’m still in touch with those women so many years later.

So I know as a young person, it’s important to have meaningful relationships with older women. Yes, with our mom and family members, too…but not just family.

daugher and mom outside in winter
My daughter, Jamie, and me—we love our outdoor adventures together!

Now that I’m the older woman, I want to make myself available to those a generation behind me so they can have the same experience.

And why is it especially meaningful to get away from normal church life, work life, whatever life and spend time cross-generationally, together in the outdoor space?

There’s nothing like getting away for a time to deepen those relationships.

a group of women in a cozy lodge worshiping together
A time of worship together

The Younger Generation is Energetic & Adventurous

Honestly, I love being around our kids and their 20-something friends. When I’m around them, I feel younger, too!

Their adventurous spirit and energy are contagious. They want to try new things. Go places. Experience life.

Those who attend these winter retreats almost all love the outdoors and are ready for a weekend in the snow.

It’s been a challenge to get women my age to go along, honestly. The lack of indoor plumbing is the main culprit. But it’s also common for older women to stop being active, so this kind of retreat can be pretty intimidating.

group of women playing broomball on a frozen lake
A rousing game of broomball on the frozen lake

The Older Generation is Wise & Experienced

At least we hope we are! To grow older physically without adding wisdom at the same time is a waste of aging.

Being around someone with not just 5 years of life experience, but 10 years, 20 years, 30 years…We have something to offer these younger women they can’t find by talking to their peers.

We’ve learned through life experience. We’ve grown in wisdom and insight over the years. We’re learned hard lessons—sometimes the hard way, sometimes because of our own mistakes or sin. And we can pass what we’ve learned to these younger ones.

The more the generations can dialogue together, rub shoulders, serve together, snowshoe and hike together—the better for all of us.

woman climbing a 2-story stone fireplace
Elizabeth scales the Climbing Wall in AC’s lodge

A Northwoods Winter Retreat

Out time together—we can choose either two or three nights—seems so short. But we manage to pack a ton of stuff in and still feel like we have time to relax, chat, enjoy each other’s company and get to know the AC staff.

Full of Fun Activities

So far on these winter weekends we’ve:

  • Gone on 5-mile snowshoe excursions, even packing lunch and made balsam-leaf tea
  • Cross country skied on pristine northwoods trails
  • Played broomball on the shoveled-off lake
  • Scaled the 2-story stone fireplace they use as a climbing wall
  • Learned how to cut down trees and throw hatchets
  • Watched the sun rise high above a frozen lake after a short hike
  • Taken a Polar Plunge through a hole in the ice after getting steamed up in the sauna.
woman climbing out of icy water - polar plunge
Emilie doing the Polar Plunge (I think this was her third time!)

Full of Sweet Fellowship

I love to sit in the lodge and look around me at these beautiful women reading their Bibles, talking softly with a friend or reading a book. Some paint, others play games together.

AC serves their meals family-style, so meals are always a highlight, too. Besides the food being delicious, mealtimes were sweet because of the talking and laughing.

We always spend a couple hours Saturday night worshiping and praying together. How precious and encouraging to hear the Spirit-led, heartfelt, mature prayers of these young ladies!

I’m used to that from being with them at church. But it can be even more meaningful when it’s outside our normal setting. That’s when you realize it’s just a part of life together.

That’s pretty cool…and amazing, really.

two women in comfy chairs reading Bibles
Christina and Sarah enjoy a quiet few minutes with their Bibles

Multi-Generational Planning

The first year, Emilie, one of the young women going on the retreat, offered to help with the planning. I jumped at that, I can tell you.

At first it was just to get some details off my plate. But I was so impressed with her administration skills, I quickly realized I could hand over many of those details to her completely.

Not only was it fun and super easy working with Emilie, I’m sure more women came along because she was the one inviting rather than me.

We continued to plan these together for the next two retreats. This year we passed it on to someone else who brings new energy and new ideas.

group of women on cross country skis in the snowy woods
Nothing like cross country skiing in the north woods after a fresh snowfall!

More to Come…

We didn’t necessarily set out to make this a tradition, but four years running is pretty good.

What about you? Are there men, women, couples, families from your church, school or even work place that you can invite to a wilderness retreat setting?

When we intentionally invite people of various generations, it enriches the time together so much.

group all bundled up for a cold winter sunrise
A sunrise hike in -20º…we’re still happy!

Here’s more…

Sharon Brodin
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