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How To Plan A Great Retreat

How To Plan A Great Retreat by Daniel Roberts: Shepherd’s Fold Ranch Christian Camp and Retreat Center

We live in Oklahoma. In Oklahoma the weather pays no respect to “what season” it is. Today for example is January 28 and it is 65 degrees and sunny outside. Roy Rogers once said, “if you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma just way 15 minutes”. It is so true and this crazy weather can affect our schedules.  As the weather changes into the glorious season we call Spring a lot of youth groups, teams, and other groups start getting the itch to DO SOMETHING together. That desire and longing is wonderful and needs to be cultivated for teams to develop and mature. Setting up a team retreat is an incredible way to feed the natural hunger your group has to grow and deepen. At Shepherd’s Fold Ranch we have been helping various kinds of groups discover their identities, build teamwork, reveal weaknesses and set goals for the last 40 years. We love it and believe we are helping bring the kingdom of heaven when we help groups work better and honestly with each other.

In this short guide I want to provide you with some necessities that should help alleviate the stress of planning a retreat. Through all the churches, schools, business teams and families that bring their groups out to Shepherd’s Fold for retreats we have seen the tools that lead to a successful event.

1. Have a Defined Vision

What is the purpose of the retreat? What do you want your group takeaway from your time together? A good way to identify this is to answer the question. In one sentence, how do you want your group to be different after this retreat? A good retreat will last any where between one to three nights and every activity should be planned with intention. Whether it is doing some team building challenges to break the ice or sharing life stories around the campfire, use every moment to re enforce the purpose of the retreat. If you need a sample schedule, contact us for a standard retreat schedule.

2. Purchase Good Food

Good food covers a multitude of sins. You don’t want your incredible retreat marred by the fact the food was sub par. People love memorable meals and will definitely appreciate a fantastic meal after a long day of mentally and emotionally challenging  activities. Don’t go on the cheap just to save a few dollars. For our retreat guests we offer the option of full service dining at incredibly reasonable prices which takes the guess work out of meal planning. We also offer them the opportunity to do their own meal planning in a commercial grade kitchen. If you have a team of people available to plan the meals, purchase the food, set the dining rooms, cook the meals and clean up after you can sometimes maintain a smaller budget. Either route you choose, make sure the food is high quality and there is plenty of it!

3. Create  Intentional Challenges

Challenge reveals the character of your group members and needs to be used in the appropriate sequence. If you have a group that is fairly new to each to each other it would be best to spend most of your time having fun together, playing icebreakers and creating some shared experiences BEFORE jumping into more challenging activities.

The model we use when programming activities follows the sequence of Fun—-> Challenge —-> Trust (Relationship) . Fun is the universal language used to break down barriers and get people talking. Challenges reveal issues and provide a common goal. Trust pushes the comfort boundaries and calls the group to a higher standard. If a group can achieve some level of trust then your retreat has forever impacted their lives.

4. Leave Room for Margin

I know we talked about the importance of a retreat schedule being planned with intention and an important part of that schedule comes in the form of margin (or free time). Margin needs to be implemented because not only is it not something managed well in the business world but it is a critical part of the development stage for people. The margin is when your brain and body have the time to rest and process all they have been enduring. It is in the margin the Lord speaks to us, we get new ideas and have the freedom to make commitments. Make sure your margin time is protected in your schedule.

5. Build a schedule

With all these other factors combined, you should a great skeleton for your schedule. The “bones’ are the things that cannot change: meal times, guest speakers you booked, activity times scheduled with your retreat host and that’s about it. Other items can be flexible so you should build around the bones. Don’t forget the sequence of your events or the power of margin. As referenced above, please contact us if you are in need of a sample schedule. We are here to serve you!

As always, I hope this information provides you some insight to make your retreat planning easier and we would love to be your place for any kind of retreat. Our heart is to be a place in the country where people can do business with God. And our intention is to create an environment where you can encounter the fullness of God. God bless you as you plan and prepare.


For other great resources of information check these out:

Christian Camp and Conference Association

American Camp Association

Planning Ideas

Camping Gear

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