Pulling back an archery bow looks so easy in the movies. Youth groups staying at the Sunstream Retreat Center in Ogden, Iowa, know better.
The 210-acre Christian retreat center offers groups more than a dozen outdoor and indoor activities to build teamwork and personal resilience. Each experience calls on participants to access particular skills, such as the strength necessary to shoot with a bow and arrow. The Christ-focused staff at Sunstream Retreat Center ensure that archery and other retreat activities have a deeper meaning for guests than simply filling time.
The center is less than an hour’s drive from Des Moines, but visitors would never know its proximity to the capital city while enjoying its remote surroundings. Guests can forget about the stress of daily life while soaking up the fresh air and scenic views of the Des Moines River valley.
Church groups can enjoy the peace of nature, Christian programs and plethora of activities at the Sunstream Retreat Center.
Choose Your Own Retreat
Thanks to the center’s all-inclusive packages, faith-based planners can save money and easily plan retreats at Sunstream. Lodging, dining, meetings and basic recreation are bundled into per-person packages so no hidden fees add stress to a visit.
Groups can choose from deluxe motel-style accommodations to more economical dorm-style lodging. Linens are included in motel-style rooms but not in dorm areas unless requested. Suite cabins work well for group leaders or speakers who want a little privacy.
For youth groups staying in the bunk beds in each of the two air-conditioned dormitory rooms, it often feels like a giant sleepover. The participants usually bring a sleeping bag for an indoor camping experience. For even larger groups, the Economy Dorms offer 24 sleeping rooms for up to 8 people per room, for a total capacity of 240 people.
Smaller groups frequently choose the Sunstream Motel, which comes with linens, private bathrooms and a total capacity of 48 people in 12 rooms. Guest cottages offer a full kitchen, a dining area, a bathroom and a back patio with views of the river valley below.
What began as 19 Iowa churches in 1914 evolved into the Iowa Ministry Network. The organization strives to assist Pentecostal churches in their ministry efforts. Today, the Iowa Ministry Network owns and operates the Sunstream Retreat Center.
In 1974, the organization first planned an event on the center’s grounds. Though the site served as simple campgrounds at first, over the years the organization helped to grow the center so it could better serve more churches, as well as reach and disciple children.
Sunstream furthers this mission by emphasizing quality staff that understand Christian groups and their needs. The friendly team can help planners organize worship services, workshops and other ministry opportunities.
No need to explain what an altar call is and why the service went so long. Sunstream’s staff already understand. The staff often make close connections to the event leaders while assisting and praying with them.
Sunstream’s staff seeks to combine belly-shaking laughter with moments of quiet reflection. Lighthearted moments often come from Sunstream’s free indoor and outdoor recreation activities.
Many groups find gaga ball one of the most memorable activities. In this tamer version of dodgeball, players hit the ball with their hands to knock each other out.
Other indoor activities in the center’s gym include basketball, billiards, air hockey, foosball, carpetball, table tennis and board games. Participants can also use the gym’s Xergame Sportwall, an interactive wall that can be used for various aerobic games. For a different perspective during activities, groups can use the gym’s black light sports arena for glow-in-the-dark games.
Outside, groups can giggle their way through a game of human foosball. Other options include sand volleyball, basketball, kickball, softball, football, soccer and disc golf.
For a communal nature experience, groups can book a hayride and bonfire evening. Hiking trails also weave through the property for group or independent exploration.
Sunstream sought to go beyond typical retreat activities with its recent addition of Pioneer Village. The added experience allows groups to try archery, skeet and slingshot ranges while staff supervise and facilitate.
Participants at the Pioneer Village’s Blacksmith Shop stay on high alert while working with heat to weld metals. For a less extreme skill, groups can learn to whittle wood at the nearby Grandpa’s Wood Shop.
Scenic views of the Des Moines River valley enhance the thrills on the Sunstream’s zip-line course, which features five zips through the trees.
Other teambuilding activities include a climbing tower and a low-to-the-ground challenge course that focuses on team development through planning and problem-solving. Facilitators encourage participants to reflect on how the challenge relates to everyday life.
For summer visitors, an aquatic center offers a respite from high temperatures with a swimming pool, waterslides and a volleyball net.
Fast Facts about Sunstream Retreat Center
Location: Ogden, Iowa
Size: Sunstream features several buildings centrally located on 210 acres.
Capacity: The retreat center can accommodate 350 overnight guests. The largest meeting room can hold 400 people.