blog how to retreats

How to Plan a Retreat: The Beginning

So perhaps you’ve been assigned or delegated or volunteered or hired to help plan a retreat. First of all – Congratulations! You’re going to have a great time, and learn a lot in the process. Someone saw something in you that made you the perfect choice for this role, or, you’re looking to plan a retreat for your business or group of friends.. Know that you have the ability and skills to do this job, and do it well.

Now that our virtual pep talk is over, what’s next? Check out my whole series onΒ “How to Plan a Retreat” because I love leading them, having lead tons of retreats over the last 12 years.

How to Plan a Retreat, a great series about how to plan, lead, market, and create a retreat. Click to read now and pin for later, too.

I would recommend pulling together a meeting of everyone that has signed up for the planning team. It’s OK if there are just a couple of you, or just you, for now. Here are a few details that you should consider at your first gathering or brainstorming:

1. Who are you planning this retreat for?
possible answers: your Church, a book club, your youth group, a group of young adults, seniors, women, women with young children, men, single men, divorced people
There are definitely as many audiences for retreats as there are stars in the sky, and you’ll do yourself a huge favor by identifying your intended audience early. There’s nothing wrong about saying “its for everyone at Church” – this is also a great answer! You’ll just need to know who you’re trying to reach before you go about planning anything.

2. Do you have a place to hold the retreat?
you could hold it at: your Church, someone’s home or vacation home, a retreat center, a school gym, sorority house, senior center, recreation center, hotel or spa, you may also consider a summer camp in the off season
You can hold retreats anywhere, but the location starts to come into play when you begin to decide on activities. Since you’ve defined your audience, that may have already helped with the “where” of your retreat planning. A men’s “get back to nature” retreat and a women’s “scrapbooking weekend” would likely require two different locations.

  • If you have choices, and you or your team have the luxury of picking or suggesting a place,
    its great if the location has access to the outdoors or involves actually “getting away” from where the group usually gathers. This could be done by going just 25 miles away, but it can be nice to have a physical journey on the way to a retreat to help with distancing people from the every day.
  • If you intend to have a spiritual bent to your retreat, it would be good to find a location that either has a place to worship or will allow you to set up a place to hold services or ceremonies.
  • If its a weekend or overnight retreat, make sure you have a location that can accommodate overnight guests.
  • Consider a location that provides food (hotel, retreat center, etc), and look at the costs for that. It is very convenient to have food taken care of, and will take a lot off of your “plate.”
  • Alternately, you may want to look at places that will allow you or members of your team to cook. Consider catering is an option, if you’ve found a location that does not provide food.

how to plan a retreat
3. Who is helping plan and lead this retreat?
maybe its: a team that has all been nominated, other volunteers, a group of friends, a set of coaches, a group from the Church
If someone has already been named a leader, or there is a built in leader, Β you have a different role than a group that has been woven together from volunteers.

  • Choosing a leader can be awkward, but I would strongly suggest that one is named or selected in your first gathering.
  • If you are just first brainstorming on your own, start to think about other people you might want to pull in to the process. While you can certainly plan and lead a retreat on your own, it will be easier if you can pull in some support volunteers.
  • If it makes more sense for your group, you may want to consider the various skills that will eventually be required, and name the following roles from your roster of enthusiastic volunteers:

Administrative Lead – this person would head up finding location, getting pricing, figuring out meals and accomodations, and running the budgets. They’d also be in charge of thChurch on the Road to Hanae meetings themselves, organizing times for people to meet, taking notes, and keeping the larger team running smoothly.
Spiritual or Worship Lead – this role will oversee the spiritual or reflective aspects for your retreat. They may need to find a clergy member to assist with the service, arrange for music, research the lectionary for the day, get readers, and get the worship space ready the day of.
Activities Lead – this person will help run as point person for the other activities for the day or weekend, identifying the resources and supplies that may be required for the activities the group plans.
Marketing Lead – we eventually formed a marketing sub committee as part of our planning team. They help email, call, and post our flyers to get the word out about the retreat.

  • Everyone should work together to help plan the retreat and attend all meetings. I suggest that the Leads be named so that they are accountable for getting footwork done in between team meetings.

4. Do you have an idea of a theme for your retreat?
At your first meeting, I’d throw around some larger ideas, but not settle on anything right away. A theme needs to be well defined and well thought out, so the group (or you) should come back to the next meeting prepared with big ideas for group discussion.

5. Schedule your first planning meeting.
We like to use Doodle to schedule meetings because it allows everyone to show the days they are available. If your team is comfortable with the internet, I’d recommend keeping everything electronic. We also use a google group to stay in touch, and it allows us to communicate in between meetings.

Coming up next: coming up with ideas for themes, creating a flyer, and how to start thinking of pacing for a day versus weekend event.

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  • Liz
    February 5, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Great ideas, Paula. We have a state sleep society that my supervisor puts together once a year. He also helps with the EEG seminar as well. I have seen first hand all the time it takes to put one of these together. It’s a lot of work.

  • How to Plan a Retreat: Coming up With a Theme | Welcoming Spirit
    July 14, 2015 at 5:07 am

    […] last time we chatted about retreat planning, we talked a little about the beginning of the process. What kinds of roles you might need, what […]

  • juanita pendlay
    November 21, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    – trying to figure out how to have a few ‘friends’ at my country home / fri eve till we all head off together for worship on sunday – a very simple personal retreat – [ i have a yearly tea party for me+7 every fall ] – –fri eve after meal – women’s hay rack ride / bonfire / hot choc and treats — sat – maybe give each other pedicures – maybe have a local shop do a pre-arranged fashion-y show — i’m thinking about having a well-chosen person give a ”cooking school” ….craft: decorate nice notebooks with decorative paper/sayings/jewels/ feathers…….to trade in a game of some kind—–meals would be great, of course…what do you think? sound corney? ree drummond of ‘pioneer woman’ has had retreats for her college friends – and others –inspired me to think about it…..alot of work – but i would gladly and willingly jump in and be the host/planner/make arrangements…………i need an opinion besides my own!!!

    • Paula
      December 5, 2015 at 12:14 am

      I think this sounds really nice, Juanita, and perfect for a get away. I love your idea of having someone come in and help lead a cooking class, and involve a craft on another day. Is there someone in your group who might have a craft they love and want to lead?
      The other details are really dependent on your group. Are they spiritual? Would they be open to something like a journal exercise, or a meditation?
      Or, are there other skills that your friends might want to learn together?
      If you leave a little more about your your group, I’d be happy to weigh in πŸ™‚
      Good luck!
      Paula