5 Things to Consider When Planning for a Retreat

I don’t know why, but I’ve always dreamed of leading a retreat. I just haven’t volunteered before because I know it would require a lot of work. But this time, I know that this is really what God wants me to do so I took on the role of being the retreat coordinator for the B1G South Ministry this year. We’ve started retreat planning a couple of weeks ago for our November retreat and I just want to share some important points that you need to consider when planning a retreat.

I started my career in the project management industry. Whenever there is a project, a lot of the work is invested on planning. You need to plan a lot of things: the scope, time, and cost. Having these factors sorted out will make implementation seamless and less prone to errors. The output of your planning sessions will help brief your team so everyone’s aware of the tasks they specifically need to do. When the project team knows what is expected from them, you’ll be able to easily delegate tasks and monitor the progress. Of course, establishing the scope of your retreat is also very important and will require you to focus on the following factors during your planning sessions.

 

(1) Objectives

What is the goal of the retreat? What do you want to achieve? Laying down your objectives will help steer the direction of the retreat. This will help you focus just on the important things you need to consider. When you have a goal in mind, everything that you will be doing should help attain it. Your objectives will also help you in making sound decisions. There will be times when you’ll need to make some tough choices and your objectives should be a major factor in your decision making.

 

(2) Date

Since you’ll want to have a lot of people participate in your retreat, choosing the right date is important. There’s no guarantee that a specific date will be free for everyone so you should plot a date that will encourage the majority of your target participants to attend. It’s also vital that you consider Holidays and peak season since this can affect the price of your venue. What is the ideal number of days for a retreat you ask? This ultimately depends on your objectives. Normally for us, we would always have it for 3 days and 2 nights.  Our retreats are specifically targeted towards single professionals so we usually plot our retreats for the weekend, allowing them to only take a leave from work for one day.

 

(3) Venue

Try creating a checklist of all the things you want to consider for the venue. From your checklist take note of your absolutes and good to haves. Definitely, your absolutes should be good rooms that will be comfortable for your participants. But what is the scope of a good room? Does that mean a 5-star rated room? Again, you need to align your objectives towards your target market. If you are targeting single professionals, they would most probably want a room that is at best the level of apartelles. If this is for the youth, they would most probably not think much about the type of room they will be staying in, but they would be more concerned about the facilities available at the venue. Keep in mind the amenities and costs for the venue. Amenities should help foster your objectives and also include enough recreational activities that your participants will be interested in. Before you decide on a venue, do an ocular inspection. It will allow you to get a feel of your venue and have a better understanding of what you and your team will be working with.

 

(4) Cost

If you already have past experiences in planning the financial side of a retreat, you can peg a cost that will be reasonable for your participants. Whatever the pegged cost, just remember that your budget shouldn’t revolve solely on it. This means that when you create your budget, don’t try adjusting it too much just so it would meet your pegged cost. Create a feasible budget. Include all the actual or estimated costs and then compute how much to charge each participant. From there compare it to your pegged cost. Is it above or below your pegged cost? If it is below, then you can use your new computation rather than your pegged cost. If it is above your pegged amount, then you might want to do away with some items to lower your budget. What are those items? Again, realign yourself with your objectives. The best outcome is just to breakeven but if have a retreat fund from your ministry, then maybe you can use it as leverage to lower down the cost. At the end of the day, the cost for a soul getting to know Jesus is priceless!

 

(5) Number of Participants

Create a target of how many participants you can accommodate on this retreat. But be sure that your target number can easily be accommodated by the venue. Aim for the target and let it be your vision. Put that target deep within your heart. Allow it to sink it. Allow it to motivate you and push you to reach it because you just want to share the love of Jesus to people. When you have that target, cascade it to your team and create marketing campaigns to achieve it.

In reality, there is no clear formula on how to plan a perfect retreat. Keep in mind that imperfect people are planning it. That imperfect people are working on it. The best way to ensure that your retreat will be successful is to just rely on God. With every decision, pray about it and ask God to guide, lead and give you favor throughout. In the end, if your retreat is for Him then the success should only be pointed towards Him and not you.

Note from the Author: if you want to know how the Retreat went, you may read my entries about it. Here are my experiences during the first official B1G South Retreat: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

 

My Top 5 Entries Since I Started Writing

It’s that time of year when things have started to pile up. The B1G South ministry is in the middle of planning for November’s retreat, I have a couple of speaking engagements coming up, and there’s just so much work that needs to be done. It just goes to show that when you’re busy, time just seems to fly by so fast. I can’t believe that it’s already been a year since I started writing this blog. When I was trying to decide what I wanted to write about, I honestly didn’t have any specific niche in mind. This is the reason why I decided to call my site assorted ideas – I just wrote whatever came to mind.  But as my relationship with the Lord grew, I was moved to write about Him and His impact on my life. It’s been a year and I thank God that with his spirit, He has inspired me to write powerful entries that has been a blessing to others.  To recap, here are my top 5 entries since I started this blog last September 2012.

5th Place – Prayer and Fasting Testimony 2013

It was a wonderful experience just writing what I have learned and how God has really just spoken to me during the prayer and fasting week last January 2013. I remember I was all alone in my room and I was writing my thoughts down while feeling intense hunger. It was a moment when the Lord felt so near and the hunger to know Him had become stronger than the hunger for food. This entry stands as a testimony that if we draw near to God he will definitely draw near to us.

4th Place – 3 Ways How to Manage Your Emotions

Singles love to talk about matters of the heart. This entry is an excerpt from my message at B1G Connect last July 6. Why am I including this in my top entries? Aside from the fact that this entry got the most number of comments (will reply to them one by one soon), I believe the message really hit the spot for a lot of singles. It is only through God’s word that we will be able to add logic to our emotions, and not be carried away by it. It’s only through His word that we’ll be able to really manage our emotions.  I know this entry spoke to a lot of people and I praise God for that.

3rd Place – 3 Things I learned while I was not using Facebook

If you love logging on to Facebook or any form of social media, this entry is for you. Upon posting this entry, I immediately got a high traffic of views for my site. This entry helped others rethink their Facebook habits. That anything blown out of proportion will never amount to anything good. And yeah, someone naturally linked to this entry as well so it means it was worth sharing. Amazing!

2nd Place – The Shadow I want to run away from

I can still recall the feelings I had when I wrote this entry. My heart was really heavy when I wrote this. I was just a couple of days away from preaching and I was feeling really discouraged. At that moment, I just felt that strong need to write and this is what came out of that. It took me just one seating to get it all out. I haven’t always had that much confidence in my writing because I tend to mix up words and letters when I write. But this entry made me realize that somehow, with God’s help, I’m able to write. This was the start of it all. This entry really holds a deep sentimental value in my heart. Try reading it and let me know if you come across the “shadow” I was referring to.

1st Place – Let’s do 8!

And the best entry goes to…*drumroll*…my B1G8 Retreat Experience – the most viewed entry. I’m not sure if it’s because there are a lot of people who are still interested in B1G8 or if there are people just looking for retreat ideas (according to my analytics). Whatever it is, I hope my experience has provided them with the information they need. This was one of my longest entries. I actually had to cut this entry short since I was afraid that I might end up boring my readers. This entry contains so much learnings. This retreat not only confirmed that I was serving in the right ministry, it also helped grow my love for my discipleship group. It has taught me valuable lessons about God and the overall experience proved to be such a blessing for me. I think one section of this entry that drew quite a strong interest from readers, was the part where I wrote down what happened during fellowship night. I can still remember it – my hopeful love story ending in failure. Haha.

Indeed, time flew by so fast. At this point, I’m just glad that God has lead me to write and I want nothing more than to glorify His name and bless other people through my humble entries. It’s been only a year but I have a feeling that I will continue to write as long as I can. Who knows? Maybe even write a book someday. To Him be the glory alone!

How about you? May I know if there is any article that you liked or would want me to write about?

7 Rules in Facilitation

Facilitation is a skill that can be used in a lot of different ways. Whether you are leading a meeting in your organization, brainstorming new ideas at your workplace, or teaching a small group in your church, the right facilitation skills can help you run discussions more smoothly.

It is the skill of drawing every member to actively discuss a particular topic, leading to a group consensus and actionable response from each participant. –GLC3, Making Disciples 3

If you want to know how to facilitate, I’ll be sharing here 7 rules that you need to establish every time you lead a small group in your church. Most of what I’ll be teaching is from a lesson I learned from my GLC3 course and through personal experience.

1. Explain the Guidelines

First, you need to establish rules between you (facilitator) and the members of your small group prior the discussion. This will help you create order in your meetings as your strive to come up with a consensus within your group

2. Encourage Others to Talk

Not everyone in the group will really want to share. Be sensitive enough to take notice of those who are not participating enough and encourage them to speak up and share their thoughts every once in a while. Don’t force them though. Encourage them to willingly open up.

3. Be an Active Listener

Being an active listener involves a lot of body language. You can nod your head in agreement, establish eye contact to show attention or tilt your body forward to indicate interest. You can also respond by agreeing with short phrases like “ok”, “Uh ah”, or “you’re right”.

4. Ask the Right Questions

I have lead my discipleship group for years already and I can honestly say that, based on experience, asking the right question is one of the important keys to facilitating. Always use open-ended questions. Don’t use questions that will only get you a “yes” or “no” answer because discussions often end with that kind of questions. You can also use greater response questions by asking the participant to describe, summarize, or explain the lesson. Redirecting questions from one participant to the other can also be effective. Or you can also use feedback and clarification questions. Again, the key is to use the right question. Be sensitive to what type of question would be appropriate for a situation.

5. Respond Appropriately to Questions and Comments

Some helpful responding skills are paraphrasing, summarizing or using the sandwich method to correct a wrong statement.  You can paraphrase by stating what the person said using your own words. You can summarize it by starting with “correct me if I’m wrong, but this is how I understand it…” and stating some major points from the discussion. The sandwich method or kiss, kick, kiss is an effective way to refocus the discussion if there are points that you don’t agree to. You can say “Thank you for sharing your ideas, but I think this is the correct interpretation for this lesson…but please, do continue sharing your ideas so we can learn from each other.”

6. Conclude by asking each one for a practical application

The goal of facilitating a small group discussion in your church is to end with a practical application point they can do. You can use the SMART acronym to ensure that the course of action is smart, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Also, remember that the action step should be personal and not copied from anyone.

7. Prepare your heart

This is an additional point I just want to include. It is very important to keep in mind that whenever we facilitate, it is because we want to serve our small group. Facilitation is centred on the participants and not you. You can be very skillful in facilitating, but your members will be able to easily tell if your heart isn’t there. John Maxwell said:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

Learning to facilitate well can take time and practice but having the right heart is the first step to being successful in teaching your small group. May we all take the call to lead a discipleship group and facilitate them into knowing God more through His word alone.

How about you, maybe you can share below another tip for facilitation?

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