Some time ago a friend asked if I would post a How – To blog on planning a women’s retreat. I thought it was a wonderful idea and convinced my dear friend, Nancy, to be a guest blogger. Nancy has served as the Women’s Ministry Director at our church for the past 7 years. It’s been such a blessing to get to know her and see her passion for the women of our church. She truly and sincerely wants them to grow in their spiritual walk and commitment.
Retreat Planning 101
So you want to know how to plan a Women’s Retreat? It is actually very simple…here is the secret: Pray!
That’s it, well, that is the priority, beyond that build a great team of women to work alongside you. Find women that are excited about your retreat, that love the Lord and want to see women draw close to Him.
Here are some bullet points that may help you on your adventure:
Always begin with this. The Lord knows what the women need during this season, ask Him what it is. Pray that He will help direct the steps of the planning. Pray that He will guide you to the women He wants involved in the retreat.
Share with a small group of women that are also passionate about designing a women’s retreat and see what God has been teaching you. Often the Lord uses these lessons as a spring board for the retreat.
- Location and speaker
After forming the core steering committee, the most immediate attention needs to be placed on selecting a location and speaker. We typically have between 80-100 women in attendance so we have certain logistical needs to consider when picking a facility. In our area retreat spots book fast, so we often make this decision 10 to 12 months in advance. This year for the first time we went to a hotel!
- Coordinating Team
In the past, we had one coordinator that oversaw all the retreat committees. She would choose a co-coordinator that would be in training for the next year. Lately we’ve found having three or four women as part of a steering team to be less burdensome and more fun! Each of these women oversees separate committees.
- Form committees based on your needs
Here is a sample of some of ours:
Free time activities
Of course this is not an exhaustive list! Although you might be exhausted just reading it.
Our giveaways team came up with a tremendous amount of prizes and gifts to share with the ladies over the weekend.
Clear communication is also very important. You can use e-mail, phone calls, meetings, letters etc, just make sure everyone has clear expectations. We have written job descriptions so each committee head knows her responsibilities.
- Plan an agenda for the weekend
Have a timeline and put in meals, speaker times, small groups, free time etc. Build in some extra time between meeting times to allow God to work in His own way. It is okay to deviate from the schedule as the Holy Spirit prompts. It is also important though to know where you are headed, confusion over scheduling can be very distracting to the women.
We open the first meeting up to all the women of the church, asking for people to come and be a part of our planning session. The steering committee has already divided the responsibilities and are ready to form their core teams. Some women come forth out of their own initiative and others are asked (invited, cajoled) to help.
We usually have about 8-10 meetings before the retreat with all the committee leaders and steering team. We pray, share requests and needs and discuss the planning and progress of each area. By this time, we’ve come up with a topic, theme and core Bible verse.
- Additional Activities
Here is a collection of some of the things we’ve done at retreats, either during free time or as part of the presentation. Each year looks different, you can’t “do it all”, so pick what personally suits the women of your church.
Personal testimonies from women in our church
Break out sessions on specific topics (marriage, parenting, Bible study helps)
Board games and puzzles
This is a significant area of management. It can be difficult to keeping track of payments, special needs and rooming assignments. Pick someone with great administrative skills. Have all payments made before the retreat. We provide scholarship money for women that can not afford the cost of the retreat. It was been a joy to see God provide just what we need.
- Set up
The retreat committee generally arrives about 3 hours before the rest of the women to decorate, put out name tags, check rooming assignments and be personally prepared to greet the women. Be careful not to be distracted with the small stuff as the women arrive. Many of them are completely scared and uncomfortable!
We have fun creating a notebook for the weekend. Included in it is the retreat committee teams, the agenda for the weekend, notes for the speaker’s sessions, a quiet time devotional, small group questions, songs and even a phone/email address list of each attendee. Our worship leader is a gifted songwriter and each year pens a song especially for the year’s retreat.
- More Prayer
The retreat team is careful to build in time, during the retreat, for prayer. We gather with the speaker, worship leader and steering team to pray before each session. Often God reveals to us there, any changes that are necessary.
Make sure you are available to “be present” with the women. We can physically show up to hang out with the women, but our minds can be on the next meeting or in problem solving mode. They need you, all of you!
Thank you’s of course are important at the end of a meeting. Mainly, of course, God gets all the glory!
- Follow up
Often this is difficult. You will be tired. Some women will still want to connect or may have shared a struggle and will need further attention. Know counselors in your area, be alert to “signals” some women may send out, indicating their need for further help. One year we hosted a party for the committee the week after the retreat to say thank you. Another time we had a “reunion” for the women who attended the retreat. Again, make this about what your women need.
Meetings keep everyone on track.
Our theme this year was The Amazing Race. The decorations were definitely amazing!
Our speaker, Judy Gerry, brought a collection of her books to share with the retreat attendees.
Have fun! Did I mention you need to pray? I can’t emphasize that enough. It is an absolute blessing to see God work in very specific and awesome ways. He speaks to each of us so personally, let the women share their stories….it is amazing!
There you go…some ramblings from a retreat junkie. My very first one, I was one of those scared, reluctant girls who only came because someone personally invited me and offered to room with me. I am now hooked! It is hard work and exhausting and completely worth it. Have fun and may God bless you beyond all your expectations!