Cannon Beach Conference Center

Purposeful Programming

One of the many challenges for a retreat leader is pleasing all of the people all of the time. This may seem like an insurmountable task, but there is a way to remedy this concern.

One way is by letting your group come up with as many planning ideas as they can – brainstorm! This is a wonderful way to gain insight into what the group would really like to accomplish during the retreat. Brainstorm with your group as a whole. Begin the meeting with group prayer and then a moment of silent prayer to get everyone focused on the retreat. Then discuss the retreat’s purpose and objectives. Make sure to jot down any ideas that strike you as interesting, creative, or even weird. Good ideas can come from strange beginnings!

Let the group members develop the ideas and then you and your committee can refine those ideas into a retreat program. This brainstorming session may also give you a good idea as to what type of speaker would best suit the needs of the group. As each group member is able to express ideas and suggestions about the retreat, a feeling of ownership will be instilled. With this ownership in place, each member will appreciate the work you are doing and a few more people may add their name to the volunteer list.

Some creative program ideas are:

  • Fun Night! Skits, lip – sync, adapt TV game shows, 50’s nights…..
  • Question and answer time with the speaker
  • Candlelight dinner the last evening of the retreat
  • Fashion show sponsored by a local department store
    Contests with donated prizes, such as a two-mile run with prizes donated by a local business, etc.

Here are some good icebreaker ideas as well for both large and small groups:

Small group: Divide the group into pairs and give each pair 10 minutes to interview each other, either with pre – arranged questions or just ‘off the cuff’. Have everyone come back together as a group and ask each member of the group to introduce their pair partner. (If the group has been together for years then have the pairs ask each other for unique information the group may not know already. Make sure the questions are non – threatening.)

Large group: Divide into small groups of 10 – 12 people and then ask them to pair off and interview each other returning to the small group for introductions. (If time allows, you may want to begin by dividing the group in half and continue the icebreaker from that point.)

Lots of new people: get one roll of toilet paper. As the group begins to gather, announce that you will be passing around a roll of toilet paper and ask each person to take ‘some’ off the roll. Tell them it doesn’t’ matter how much, just ‘some’. When everyone has taken some paper, turn to the first person and say, “OK, tell us one thing about yourself for each square of toilet paper you pulled off the roll.” You will hear laughter, moans, and many ‘oh – no’s!’ As you go around the room, everyone will learn a little bit more about each other and feel more comfortable about being a part of the group. If your group already knows each other, then you may want to ask each person to tell something about him or herself that no one in the group knows. Make it clear that no one needs to tell the group anything that makes them uncomfortable. Keeping the game light and comical can promote a real fellowship and sometimes spark some new friendships.

What makes a retreat successful? 25% good speaker, 75% fellowship and fun times! It’s a matter of combining fun and spiritual challenges to make such a great experience that guests want to register for next year’s retreat before this one is over. Get a great speaker; a poor speaker can discourage repeat guests. Word of mouth references may not give you a complete picture of a speaker’s abilities. Ask if they have a tape you can review. Vary the program with new and different ideas – this creates anticipation and excitement.

Remember that purpose determines program. Can you list four specific things you are doing now that will help you achieve your purposes for the retreat? Do you know your purpose? Do you have goals for what your retreat will be four years from now?