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.
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.
- Planning to stay in the city and spend some fun time with the team? Consider an Arcade in Toronto or a similar activity center that you can visit and indulge in planned activities and games.
- In case you are taking a road trip, an SUV would be very comfortable. If you do not have one, you can get a used car from a reliable dealership like Stampede Auto (Click to visit).
- 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.
- Whether you decide on a hotel for your retreat or the more private option of a villa for your retreat, by having these cool options decided on in advance, you will ensure a well-planned comfortable stay in any location.
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, 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 the 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.
If you’re planning a spiritual retreat, you’ll love this podcast episode: