If you ever have to plan a leaders' retreat, here are some ideas. Feel free to add your own suggestions at the end.
Reasons to Do a Leaders’ Retreat
• Growth in relationships. You can grow relationally more in one weekend together than you would probably otherwise grow together in a year of weekly meetings
• Fun. You can throw in a movie or a skit or a funky awards ceremony at a weekend event.
• Efficiency. You can use time more efficiently if you have large blocks of it.
• Training. For an upcoming semester, you can use retreat time to train discussion leaders and teachers, introducing them to the new content they’ll be covering.
• Evaluation and direction. A retreat provides an ideal opportunity to think about where you’ve been, where you want to go, and how you plan to get there.
• Reward. A special weekend communicates to your leaders that you value them and their contributions.
The Logistics of a Leaders’ Retreat
• Seek God’s direction for your time.
• Plan ahead. Include your leaders’ retreat in next year’s church budget.
• Set a date, working around spring break, graduation, summer vacations, and holidays. The larger the church, the sooner it needs to go on the master calendar.
• Determine your purpose and theme.
• Create a schedule. (More on this later.)
• Ask yourself how each of your schedule items fulfills your purpose.
• Make a budget and stick to it.
• Delegate tasks: invitation, location, content, music, food, recreation, evaluation.
• Decide on content. Will you speak? Do you want an outside speaker? Or do you just want small groups led by your own discussion leaders? One woman’s Bible study of which I was a part were weak on social engagement. So we invited an actor to provide a dramatic presentation of the woman with the issue of blood. Afterward she asked, “What did this woman need?” Everyone noted the number one need was not a Bible study. That helped us look for ways to consider meeting physical needs as we met spiritual ones.
• Count the number of potential attendees, and choose a location accordingly. Think outside of the box. One year we went camping and explored lesser-known saints in the Bible. Another year we took a group of leaders on a house boat. Divided among ten people it cost less than a hotel, and it provided a unique experience in housing that required us all to hang together and cook in groups. Still another time fifteen discussion leaders went to a large cabin. Larger groups may need a retreat site or hotel.
• Figure out transportation. Encourage carpooling for relationship building.
• Think about food. If meals aren’t provided, divide meal planning among groups of three. Encourage people to bring healthful snacks, and cook meals that follow the food pyramid. Model moderation.
• Find out what supplies you need, from paper napkins to water skis.
• Figure out media. What about music? Need a data projector? DVD player?
• Determine if you need some sort of registration packet with pre-printed notes and song sheets.
• Decide recreation/free time offerings. Movies are included in this. Choose films that illustrate or fit with your purpose.
• Set parameters. Provide emergency contact number to families ahead of time and then ask attendees to leave cells phones and Blackberries turned off once everyone arrives.
• Give everyone a job. This cuts down on the work for coordinators and helps everyone feel a part of the group.
• Consider giving each participant a gift such as the classic book Disciples Are Made, Not Born.
• Create an evaluation form. Afterward use it to help you evaluate your time together.
Possible Agenda Items for a Leaders’ Retreat
• Create a mission statement.
• Discuss your ministry’s strengths, weaknesses, needs, and priorities.
• Consider how well you are shepherding people in your care—both in terms of physical and spiritual needs. Discuss particular situations needing attention.
• Brain storm about how to accomplish goals and make improvements.
• Schedule time for prayer, music, and worship.
• If going to a beautiful setting, schedule time for a walk or boating.
• If you want to include teaching/instruction, determine the blocks of time necessary. Consider a Bible survey of Moses’ leadership skills or a book discussion of a work such as Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. During one Bible Study leaders’ retreat, we asked someone to speak on prayer because our ministry needed more emphasis on God doing the work.
• Bring a copy of the proposed budget and discuss amendations.
• Allow free time, which allows for building unity, trust and respect.
• Integrate media. You could watch a movie such as Amazing Grace. Or ask a local counselor to recommend some counseling DVD’s and watch them together. Then discuss some “what if” situations.
• If you’re kicking off a Bible study semester, include time for an overview of the upcoming content.
• Provide training time for new discussion leaders.
• Schedule the opportunity for each person to take a spiritual gifts inventory and determine the best match of gifts with assignments.
• Ask the least-known person in attendance to share her Life Map or salvation testimony.
Feel free to share your additions, suggestions, and stories about leadership retreats.