Leading retreats has been a passion of mine since my junior year in high school. At 16, I became a member of our school’s campus ministry team. As a team, we were responsible for putting together retreats for each grade.
I loved helping lead the retreats in high school. What I didn’t know at the time, 20+ years later, I would facilitate workshops and retreats as part of my work and calling.
Retreats provide a way of digging deeper into a particular topic than a one-off message allows. They can be powerful experiences but also require a lot prayer, planning and preparation.
Perhaps you have a great idea for a retreat or a desire to create an event that challenges or replenishes women over a weekend.
Things to consider before leading a retreat
If so here are nine things to consider before hosting a retreat:
- Your why and who. Putting on any type of event requires time and effort so you must be sure before you start that you have a clear vision.Why do you want to facilitate a retreat? Why are you sensing this is something the Lord wants you to do? Why is this particular type of event needed? And why are you the person to lead it? Also, who is your target audience? Who will benefit most from attending?
- The expectations. What do you hope participants will take with them or learn as a result of attending this event? What change do you hope they will experience in their lives after leaving the event? Having realistic expectations ensures a positive experience for all involved.
- The scope and schedule. Will this be a one day local retreat or a weekend away? What topics will be covered and in what order? When will there be breaks? Will there be several speakers or just one?This is where you come up with the “bones” of your event. The themes make up the content of what you will cover. It’s important to consider if it would fit better as a one morning coffee talk type of event or a two-day, multi-session event.
- The logistics. Once you’ve determined the length and basic schedule, set a date and find a location. Decide how many people to plan for so as to determine the space you’ll need.You may also have to coordinate meals. Are there retreat centers nearby? Or perhaps a hotel or community center might work? What materials will you need to purchase or prepare? What decorations will you need to create the right ambiance?
- Your team. Recently I led a one day retreat at a local hotel. I did not have an official “team” but a good friend attended and volunteered to be my helper. I cannot tell you what a treasure it was to have her there. When we were having “tech” issues, she became my point person and worked with the hotel coordinator to resolve the issues so I was free to carry on with the material.I highly recommend you put together a team to help with your event. It may consist of several people or just you, a friend and a contact at the venue. Having additional support will be crucial as you determine who the designated “point person” will be during the event. Who should attendees contact with questions or concerns?I would suggest you also put together a small group of trusted friends who pray for you and the participants. They play a huge part of your team.
- Your budget. Once you decide on location, schedule, meals, materials, etc., decide on your budget so you know how much you need to charge attendees.Make sure to list ALL possible expenses. Recently I neglected to add in the cost of making copies for an event, and it ended up adding several hundred dollars in unexpected costs. Consider the TIME you prepare for and actually lead the event as well.
- Getting the word out. How will you tell others about the event? Will you have a sign-up on your web site or will you send a personal email invitation to specific people?What will be the most effective way to share your vision for this event with others?
- Setting up the actual event. How will the room be configured? When will you have access to set-up? Where will attendees check in? What materials will you be able to bring in ahead of time?Work your way backward from the start of the event to think about all of the little things that need to happen before it begins and how much time to plan for setting up.
- The follow-up. OK, so your event went great. Everyone loved it and you feel really positive about the whole experience. Now what?How will you follow-up with participants? Is there an assignment you want them to complete after the event? Will you provide a survey or a follow up email or call?
Retreats can be a huge blessing for the facilitator and participants. Trust that if the Lord calls you to share a message through this type of event, He will provide all that you need.
Zohary Ross is an author, speaker and life coach. She is also a certified Daring Way ™ facilitator and loves leading retreats and workshops based on the work of Dr. Brene’ Brown and exploring how it aligns with scripture. Connect with her at zoharyross.com.