Before you begin planning a retreat, a necessary task is to: Determine your retreat's Objective.
The sooner you know your retreat's Objective the quicker you can decide:
1. Whether you will want a guest speaker, and who it will be. Talented resource people need plenty of time for planning, and often have busy schedules with few openings.
2. The Length of your retreat. If your retreat has a reunion flavor, focuses on a crafts (quilting, scrapbooking), is heavy on education, or if participants traveled far, a longer retreat of at least two or three days works best. If your retreat is largely recreational, participants are more local and know each other (same church, organization), then a one or two day may be better.
3. The type of facility you will need. A whole church retreat, a couple's retreat, a 5th grade classroom's annual Outdoor Education experience, and a church youth group retreat, all have different facility and space needs. Some retreats lend themselves to dorm facilities. Some need family or couples rooms. Some need separate cabins, others - a big Lodge.
4. The type of recreational and educational activities you should plan.
When planning your retreat remember these five components.
When combined, they will create a well balanced, fun and educational retreat.
1. Introductions: There should always be an initial group building activity, regardless of how well participants know each other. Camp may be a new environment for some, and most will be anxious about finding new friends, new sleeping and eating arrangements, and whether they will have a good time. A couple well planned "Get Acquainted Activites" will bring participants together, letting them know everyone is in the same boat, and that the ride will be enjoyable. Remember to keep it light, friendly and fun. Name tags are helpful too.
2. Educational Objective: If the retreat has a resource person, he/she should give a keynote address, laying out the objective of the retreat. Sessions led by the resource person should have a variety of learning experiences including: lecture, discussion, small and large group activity and hands on learning. Potty Breaks and refreshments help participants keep their focus. No single session, no matter how varied, should exceed 90 minutes.
3. Physical Activity: This element is essential, and more often ignored than any other. Typically participants will eat more and exercise less in a retreat setting. Activities can be organized or informal. At CBD there is a basketball and volleyball court, a foursquare diamond, disc golf, trails for hiking, a Labyrinth, a lake for canoeing, fishing and swimming, and a Group Building Course with a dozen initiatives. Bring board games and other activities that can be played inside too.
4. Rest: You may have the best organized retreat and still have unhappy participants, if you don't give them some unstructured time to rest, visit and relax. Set aside time for idle talk, unscheduled recreation and relaxation. This works especially well after meals.
5. Evaluation: During the first session it is a good idea to establish the objectives of the retreat. Place these in a conspicuous place, so they can be reviewed during the weekend. When the retreat is ready to conclude, review the objectives and evaluate the retreat. If this is done after a recreation or break time, participants will feel good and will give a fair evaluation. If this is done after a long session, the evaluation may be unfairly negative. Placement of the evaluation is important, for it sets the tone for what many will remember about the retreat. If the evaluation is favorable, folks will take home a good impression, talk positively about the retreat and plan to attend next year.
Before calling CBD make a realistic guess as to the number of participants, and know possible dates your resource leader is available. If you are not using a resource leader, you should at least know the general time of year (or a particular month) you want. Call as soon as you can, and be flexible. If you call asking for one specific date, or one specific building, you may be disappointed. Don't be worried if you don't have details worked out. Camp Staff will answer your questions, and give you advice. The larger your group the earlier you should call.
Be very descriptive in your publicity, telling people what to expect. Inform participants of the recreational activities available, and what equipment, clothes and bedding to bring. Make sure the resource person is publicized, giving his/her credentials. Have an early registration deadline at least two weeks prior to the retreat, so you are able to tell camp the number of expected participants. Early registration discounts work better than late registration penalties. Get the word out early and often. Publicity should take at least three different forms, i.e.: brochures, announcements, newsletter articles, individual invitations, facebook, etc....
Retreats are for relaxing. Don't create a schedule that rushes people.
Remember the five elements - Don't forget rest and recreation!
Educational and Spiritual retreats bring earnest people, but usually smaller groups.
Recreational events produce more people than expected, so plan larger.
The group leader, or his/her designee, should arrive first, so participants are welcomed.
When everyone has arrived and moved in, spend a few minutes welcoming everyone, establishing expectations for the group and going over CBD policies. This activity works well right before or after your "Get Acquainted Activities".
Rarely will a well planned and publicized retreat fail. Thorough planning is hard, but worth the results. We respect you for taking on the job of planning a retreat and will work with you at every possible turn. Keep in contact with us and let us help you succeed.
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