Joni & Friends Family Retreat

Joni & Friends Family Retreat

Scope of Project

Joni and Friends Family Retreat addresses the needs of families who live with the daily struggles of disability. Family Retreat is five days of inspirational worship, biblical teaching, informative workshops, refreshing recreation, and precious time for families to build lasting memories. Individuals are needed to serve as Short Term Missionaries (STM) to serve as a one-to-one friend to a camper with a disability, simply to give of their time and love.

A STM shares each day with their assigned camper; joining them for meals, programming, recreation and special events, and being their special friend for the week. STMs do not serve as Personal Care Attendants and are not responsible for any personal cares such as toileting, dressing, medication, etc. Their purpose is to love and serve their camper (and their family), to have fun and create memories. Simply, to be the hands and feet of Jesus!  No previous experience is required, just a willing heart. STMs arrive one day before the families to receive training on disability, disability etiquette, behavioral support, and much more.


It is a full day of serving every day. Other than the mid-afternoon break, you should expect to be with your 1:1 friend (and sometimes their family) throughout the entire day. Here is a sample schedule for a typical day:

  • 8:30am – Meet your camper and their family for breakfast at 8:30 a.m.
  • 9:30am – Morning programming (led by other volunteers; teaching, worship, crafts, etc.)
  • Noon – Lunch with your camper and their family
  • 1:00 – Afternoon free-time activities
  • 3:30ish – STM break before dinner
  • 5:30 – Dinner with your camper and their family
  • 6:30 – Evening programming (might be a petting zoo/beach party, “royal ball,” carnival, etc.)
  • (Late evening) – STM Debrief – Campers/families have already headed to their rooms for the night 

Who Can Serve?

  • Ages Age 17+ can serve as a 1:1 STM. STMs of all ages are needed and welcome!
  • Ages 14-16 can serve as an Assistant STM, paired with an adult (who they may or may not know ahead of time)
  • Pre-teens through age 13 are possibly able to serve alongside a parent who is a STM (case by case basis)


The cost is $450 per adult volunteer (age 12+). This includes lodging and all meals (the meals are delicious!). For youth volunteers, the cost is $225 (age 11 and younger).

Meals & Lodging

Meals are provided by Camp Castaway (The Young Life camp we rent out for Family Retreat). All meals are “family style” so it will be brought to your table and shared by your table. You can always ask for more if needed. They are able to accommodate special dietary needs.

All STMs will share bunk style housing. Bedding and towels will be provided for you. There are bathrooms in the rooms and multiple, individual stall showers.


Working with a person with a disability can feel daunting, challenging, or even scary. However, it is also full of joy, fun, and interesting challenges! Keep in mind that your primary goal is to have fun and make memories with your 1:1 friend – NOT to serve as a nurse or a disciplinarian or any other capacity. That said, Joni and Friends will be supporting your preparation in several ways.

  • A JAF Leader will contact you prior to camp to see who might be a great buddy for you.
  • Leading up to camp, JAF will provide practical and spiritual resources to help prepare your heart and mind.
  • Extensive training will happen at Castaway for the 24 hours before Family Retreat begins (when it will be volunteers only); Volunteers will arrive Aug 16th – families on the 17th.


Calvary is not planning to sponsor any specific fundraising projects or initiatives. However, we can discuss options together on how to handle this. Further, Calvary does have some dollars set aside to assist those who would like to serve – simply talk with Brian about this.

Application & Payment Schedule

  • Please inform me if you are planning to serve as a STM. The Martin family will be attending this year’s Family Retreat as well!
  • Complete Joni & Friends online volunteer application process by June 1.
  • Final trip payment is due in July and paid electronically through the Joni & Friends website (link will be provided).

Attending Family Retreat as a Family

If you are a family with disability, you can attend as a family (and not necessarily as a volunteer!) Each year, JAF reserves spots for new families to attend who have never come before. Space is limited, so please act fast! Register here:

Further, Calvary has some scholarships available to help make the cost of attending more affordable. Please simply email to inquire about next steps.

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