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How to Have a Successful Retreat

A retreat is a great way to bring your church or organization together. There are numerous themes you can choose. From women’s and men’s retreats to youth, leadership, couples, 50 plus, worship and more. The most common retreat is built around an event that caters specifically to either men or women. Why is it important for either men or women to have an opportunity to set time aside to fellowship and grow together? Let’s take a look.

Women’s Retreats

womens retreatAre your women’s retreats in a rut?  The same women, same traditions, same locations? It’s time to step outside those routines and experience a fresh perspective!

Women invest a lot of time and energy into their families, churches, communities, and work.  They sacrifice their own needs for others.  A retreat helps them recharge, feel encouraged, and be spiritually fed.  But our women’s retreats can become so routine and stuck in tradition that we’re not facilitating the freshness we want to occur in women’s lives. Try one or more of these ideas to revitalize your next retreat.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Getting away for 24 hours is wonderful, but some women aren’t willing or able to leave their families and job for that long. Consider a one-day retreat that lasts only eight hours. Retreat means withdrawal, so even a shorter break can be a rest from the routines of everyday life.  When you plan a one-day retreat, you’ll include more women, keep costs affordable, and make planning simpler for you and your team.

An Experience You Won’t Forget

Most groups design their retreats around a speaker, expecting everyone to follow the same schedule and respond to a single person and her message.  But when women experience what they’re learning, biblical principles stick with them up to nine times longer!  Consider out-of-the-box activities that can be debriefed with discussion and Scripture.  Do a ropes course together and then dig into the topic of trust.  Embark on a one-day service project and talk about putting faith into action.  One group went on a dog-sledding trip—it challenged women physically and then helped them consider challenges God had in store.

Make it Relational

Women like to talk!  When people connect, learning becomes more effective and helps build Christian friendships. Don’t ask women to sit and listen for hours on end.

Instead, have them get into groups and go for a long walk with three simple questions to prompt their discussion.  Mix women up at meals and provide an icebreaker.  Play board games that allow for conversation.

Throughout your retreat, plan for plenty of discussion in small groups, with no more than five women per group.  This allows everyone to go deeper, grow closer, and build more lasting relationships.

Smarter, not Harder

Why reinvent the wheel when there are retreat resources that have already been tested and fine-tuned?  Take advantage of creative ideas and practical tools such as planning timelines, supply lists, schedule suggestions, promotional and registration items, and more.  Network with other retreat directors by sharing in online discussion boards.  Involve new women to join in as you plan—and be 100 percent open to the new ideas they bring. The more others are involved, the more likely they are to invite friends and create an excellent retreat for everyone.

Step out of those retreat ruts and revitalize the women in your church.  Freshen things up and be refreshed yourself!

–Susan Lawrence is a women’s ministry consultant


Why Have a Men’s Retreat?

mens retreatRetreats are a useful way to get men away from the phone, the job, the television, and other distractions and into a concentrated atmosphere for evangelism, encouragement, and spiritual transformation.

Why Have a Men’s Retreat

Men in your church are hungry for fellowship and friendship. An organized chance to get away with other Christian men opens doors for deeper sharing.

Big events help smaller men’s groups generate enthusiasm and recruit new members. Several churches working together can offer a more attractive program than most can put together on their own.

Spiritual decisions are sometimes made more easily in larger gatherings away from home. A retreat can be a time to harvest spiritual seeds planted and nurtured much earlier.


What do Men do on a Retreat?

  • Make and strengthen friendships.
  • Enjoy recreation… fishing, volleyball, softball, basketball, hiking, skiing, camping, archery, trail rides, motor derbies, ping pong, water sports, rafting, canoeing, target or skeet shooting, golf, muzzleloading, rock-climbing, horseshoes.
  • Share group experiences… meals, discussions, videos, seminars, devotions, special speakers, worship.
  • Focus on high-impact topics… personal finances, leadership, marriage, parenting, making a career count for God, finding a personal ministry, overcoming a painful past, managing conflict and anger, rebuilding and maintaining personal integrity, discovering a spiritually- empowered life, setting ultimate priorities.
  • Examine personal values and make or renew spiritual commitments.

Regardless of the goal of your men’s retreat, it will be a transforming event for your church or group. Be creative and step out of the box. Your men will thank you for the time and thought you devoted to them.