Do you ever remember playing tag? You avoided receiving the words, “Tag! You’re it” because it would mean that you had to do a lot of running around chasing after other players. If you have been chosen to lead a retreat, you may feel like you are “it” running around, but not quite sure where or what you are doing. Planning a retreat can be tricky work, but it can also be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. When people step away from their everyday lives and slow their pace down, the Lord can speak in ways that are powerful and life changing.
Over the years of planning many, many retreats, there are 5 factors that I consider foundational:
Most important is prayer. I think sometimes we, as leaders, can think this is so obvious that we don’t really give it the time it deserves. This is what I have learned: Prayer helps us keep our perspective. When we become obsessed and stressed about smaller details, we lose sight of the precious people right before our eyes and miss opportunities to connect and encourage. Prayer reminds us that the retreat is God’s…not ours.
Jesus always had his eye on people. We need to do the same as we plan a retreat. We need to know our audience, like Jesus knew his audience. Will the people we serve enjoy a high energy program with lots of competitive games or are they more likely to enjoy a more relaxed venue? Culture, age, gender, education and career background can all play a role in what will be attractive and inviting to our guests at a retreat. Considering their needs, should be one of our highest priorities.
The speaker you chose, in many ways, sets the tone for much of the retreat. How they handle the scripture and interact with people are critical. Four areas I consider deal breakers when hiring a speaker: Do they have a high view of Scripture, do they love people, do they communicate effectively and are they seeking to live out what they teach? Do they lead by example?
The location of your retreat can also set the tenor for the retreat. Each camp or rental facility has its own personality. The actual distance it takes to get to the camp can be a significant consideration for many. Some groups prefer to stay close to home because it provides more options. For others, they love bonding on the drive and anticipating the retreat on the journey. The friendliness and helpfulness of the camp staff play a huge part in the success of retreats. Is the staff flexible and servant oriented? One of the traditions at Mt. Gilead is to pray as a staff for our guest groups; it links our staff to the hearts of our campers and their leaders.
Lastly, financial considerations make a difference. Make sure when you are researching camps that you are comparing apple to apples. Some camps have hidden charges that you don’t anticipate, such as charges for specific activities, i.e. bicycle usage, swimming pool, etc. If you feel your retreat is beyond your budget, pray and consider seeking out a private donor to help offset some of the costs. You might be surprised how godly generous individuals will jump on board and help you accomplish the vision God has put on your heart to minister to others.
God can do mighty things through just one person willing to step out and take the lead to plan a retreat. Pray. Listen and see if God doesn’t say, “TAG! You’re It and You’re Blessed!”