Yesterday I posted some lessons learned along the way in regards to planning and preparing for retreats. The discussions that followed brought on more thoughts and as such, I’d like to share these with you. If you have more to add, I’d love to hear so please add to this in the comments below.
A women’s retreat can be an extraordinary and wholly Spiritual experience for everyone involved. For those attending, those serving and those leading. We can see God move and reveal Himself in every aspect of it, if we keep our eyes open.
Here are a few more things to keep in mind:
1. Thank your volunteers. Yesterday I said, “The more people you empower, the better it becomes.” Following up the retreat with a note or email of gratitude to all those who helped it become what it did can go a long way. Those who are serving did so out of a heart to love God and others and maybe even love for you… so let them know how much you appreciate them.
2. Crying is cathartic. A lot of people don’t like retreats or have a caricature of retreats in mind because of all the crying involved. Personally, I have a theory that we women try so desperately to keep it together in our every day lives that when we finally get away for something like this, everything comes loose and pours out of your eyes. Sometimes you cry because you haven’t in a long time and suddenly the walls between you, God and others fall down. Sometimes you cry because you are empathizing with others and the pain they are going through. And sometimes you have no idea why you are crying and this makes you craziest of all. Christine Caine once said, “there is no need to be afraid of it… it’s just water.” There is also no need for concern if you don’t cry. Whatever the water level is… just go with it and let it out. We all need a good cry once in a while.
3. Bring your missionaries home. This is one thing we started doing a few years ago that has changed the shape of our retreats. We raise money and offer missionaries our church partners with in Mexico to come home and retreat with us. Not only does this bless them and give them an opportunity to rest, it bonds your women with the women who are far away, serving on behalf of God and your church. Don’t give them a job to do other than to be a part of your body in worship and prayer… they naturally will serve and bless the women there because they can’t help themselves. Put them in front of the women, introduce them, ask them to tell stories and ask them to tell the women how they can be prayed for and supported. We do a fundraiser to pay for their flights and such. No matter how you make it happen, it’s an investment with an immeasurable return.
4. Have scholarships available. Many women, especially in this economy, can’t throw down the money to pay for a retreat. This is where it’s really important to have the support of your church leadership. When it comes to budgeting, make payment plans an option and try to leave room for those who need help by inviting the congregation to help sponsor and give towards those who can’t afford it on their own. Asking the women for at least a deposit will help them personally invest in the process, but helping them with the bulk of it will not only bless the beneficiary but also those who give.
5. Present the generations. Involving women of all ages will make your retreat appealing to all the generations. Include variety of life stages and ages in your planning committee, include all ages in the worship team, the testimonies and the activities. When women bring their daughters and spiritual daughters or when young women come on their own, bring them forward, welcome and introduce them to your community of women. Pray for them and allow the process of the body of Christ affirming their identity in Him and the unique ways He has created them and gifted them.
6. You will receive more than you will ever give. Finally, as I mentioned yesterday, planning a retreat for your church is a lot of work but the investment is worth it. Here is where Kingdom math comes in for you and those who are working alongside you to make it happen. All the blood, sweat, tears, time away from your family, time spent doubting and seeking God’s plan for your group will all come to fruition the way He has it laid out. And you will come home physically tired and poured out but you will be filled to over flowing because you just got to be a part of something really amazing that God did. He could have easily done it without you but chose to include you. There is nothing better than that.
What else would you add? What have you learned by attending or planning retreats? What do you wish leaders would keep in mind when planning retreats?