Think beyond Fall Festivals, beyond Thanksgiving, and beyond Christmas. What activities do you have planned for the dead of winter? Could your volunteers, your teachers, your women’s ministry, or other groups use a retreat? Of course they could!

Retreats help teams grow professionally—building unity, focusing on their mission, and making plans for the months ahead. Plus, individuals also have the chance to grow personally. Everyone has a chance to unplug, get into the Bible, and relax when they’re on retreat. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

Before you start brainstorming your winter retreat, read through these 12 tips. You might find a few ideas you’d like to incorporate into your event!

  1. When planning a retreat, follow these basic suggestions: Select a topic carefully and don’t attempt to cover too much at the event. Plan a mix of activities—some that get participants up and moving and some that give ample time to sit and study. Try to plan something fun for everyone to do together like a movie or a silly game. Always start and end at a reasonable time. Be sure to evaluate yourself and follow up with participants after the retreat using an e-mail blast, phone message, or online survey. Use the results to help plan the next retreat.
  2. Retreat planning involves more than just choosing the right theme and location. Your event needs to follow a budget, too! Whether you are planning a retreat for men, women, or youth this fall, you may find CTA’s FREE retreat budget spreadsheet to be a helpful planning tool.
  3. When planning either men’s or women’s retreats, consider inviting members from your church community to speak. For example, a nutritionist might talk about choosing healthy snacks; a counselor could talk about stress management; or a business professional can help participants design more efficient schedules. Instead of offering them separate payment, consider waiving the retreat fee for the speakers.
  4. Finding affordable retreat space can be a challenge. If your budget dictates that you host this year’s retreat locally, don’t despair! Perhaps a nearby hotel will give you a “locals” discount. Ask for it! You can transform even the most basic meeting room with simple decorations. String white twinkle lights from the ceiling and wrap lengths of inexpensive tulle around them. Add sparkle to tables with candles set on mirrors. Get retreat participants excited about their experience by posting signs along the route to your event. Consider, “We can’t wait to see you!” or “You’re going to LOVE this retreat!” or “Only three minutes away from relaxation!”
  5. Host a road trip mini retreat this year. Plan to gather at church on the specified Saturday, then caravan to a surprise location. It could be a nearby park or a reserved room at a nearby town’s community center. Treat participants to breakfast, Bible study, and dedicated prayer time. Afterwards, consider exploring local tourist spots together. Check out stores, historical sites, and other places of interest before returning home.
  6. Host a Saturday morning retreat that targets first-time school moms. Provide babysitting for small children and plan a light snack for everyone. Invite an early-childhood teacher to give suggestions and helpful insights about common concerns: routines, friendships, school expectations, healthy lunches, and more. If possible, partner “experienced” moms with moms whose child(ren) will attend school for the first time next fall.
  7. Plan to host your men’s fall retreat in the great outdoors! A campground designed for tents or campers works well, as do woodland cabins. CTA’s themes for men’s retreats like Blueprints for Life and Man of God: Renewed for Life will encourage retreat participants in their faith walk.
  8. Use a fall retreat to recharge the volunteers on your care ministry team. Invite professionals like counselors, nurses, and others to speak at the retreat—giving your team members information that will make their ministry more productive. Also take time to review tracts, books, websites, and other resources that can be used to encourage individuals in your ministry. CTA has three customer-favorite devotional booklets: Praying with Hope, Grieving with Hope, and Facing Difficult Days with Hope. Encourage your team members to read devotions from these books during their visits or order enough to leave one book with each person in need.
  9. Plan a retreat for your Sunday school teachers. Choose a relaxing setting and a schedule that allows for reflection, prayer, and a review of your volunteers’ experiences so far this year. Hand out appreciation gifts to all of your volunteers. Try CTA’s insulated tumblers from the theme With Heartfelt Thanks.
  10. Invite new members or frequent visitors to a retreat just for them! Keep the schedule relaxed, leaving plenty of time for fellowship and fun. Make time to explain your church’s basic beliefs, congregational organization, and opportunities for service and fellowship. Give each participant one of CTA’s pull-out banner pens. Look for themes like Books of the Bible, Romans Road to Heaven, and Gospel Story by Colors.
  11. Need to put together a retreat in a hurry? Check out one of CTA’s FREE, downloadable retreat guides! You can choose from a variety of ministry themes. Everything is planned for you—one- or two-day schedules, icebreakers, Bible studies, and more! In CTA’s Resource & Idea Center, you’ll also find extra retreat resources like name badges, placemats, posters, and t-shirt transfers that are available for immediate download.

You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2017 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.

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