Giving advice for breakout session leaders ahead of time makes each small group session better.
In addition, when leaders know ahead of time exactly how you plan to run breakout sessions and what to expect, you won’t have as many hurt feelings or stressed leaders.
While there are many ways to manage the schedule of small group time, I’ve found that drop-in breakout sessions work best for us.
With a drop-in format, the ladies don’t have to worry ahead of time that they won’t get a session they really won’t.
Also, they’ll be able to stick together with friends which always makes everyone happier.
Of course, any method of scheduling can work with plenty of organization and planning. With my actual advice for breakout session leaders letter template below, feel free to customize it any way that fits your needs.
Related Post: Christian Women’s Retreat Breakout Session Ideas
Different Ways to Schedule Breakout Sessions
Drop-in Breakout Sessions
As I mentioned previously, drop-in breakout sessions allow attendees to view the schedule and the offerings and just head to the session they want to attend.
We love using this format especially once we realized what we needed to do to best prepare leaders.
Planning the right amount of supplies can be a challenge.
Another challenge is that some leaders get hurt feelings when no one or only one or two people show up for their session. The letter template of advice for breakout session leaders at the bottom of the post will help with this.
Schedule Ahead Breakout Sessions
Schedule ahead sessions allow ladies to choose the sessions they want to attend ahead of time.
I created a Google Form and sent the scheduling link in the registration confirmation email.
I requested the ladies submit their choices by a deadline in order to have time to schedule them. In theory, this is a great way to schedule because the ladies know what they are getting plus the leaders know how many to prepare for.
However, as a retreat organizer, scheduling everyone in the exact sessions they want can be difficult and time-consuming.
If you have a retreat where you expect fewer than 20 attending, the schedule ahead method might work best for you. Over that number, and pre-scheduling can be overwhelming.
Choose When You Get There Breakout Sessions
The ‘choose when you get there’ method can work well, too.
Use poster board sized Post-It notes on a wall, one for each session. Include the session name and then a numbered list of 12 (or however many will fit).
Give the ladies time to look over each session and sign-up under the one(s) they wanted. When the numbers were filled, the session is full.
This method can help leaders prepare as they know they shouldn’t have more than 12 people per session.
However, they could have as few as 2 or, as we’ve had happen, could have ladies write in more numbers on the posters and add their names so that the session has 14 or 15. Yes, we’ve had that happen. 🙂 At any rate, numbers will probably be within the ballpark of 12 for planning.
Why It’s Important to Share Advice for Breakout Session Leaders Ahead of Time
Communication with small group leaders, craft organizers, and volunteers will be key to making your retreat a success.
The more questions you can answer for these team members, the more prepared they will be. Strong, confident leaders provide the best instruction or guidance to the ladies attending.
I made the mistake in the beginning of giving only general directions with the idea that each leader could make her own decisions about the specifics.
Right away, I realized I should have been more specific with my advice.
Advice for Breakout Sessions Leaders about Purchasing Needed Supplies
We typically have leaders give us a list of the supplies they need, and we do the shopping. We’ve had many fun Sam’s Club trips to purchase craft supplies and food for retreats!
One time, a breakout session leader called me to say she was shopping and found supplies she wanted. I had her purchase the supplies and bring me the receipt so that I could reimburse her.
That worked out really well, too.
When a leader doesn’t know how many to expect in a small group activity, they don’t know what quantity of supplies to purchase.
That can be an issue, but based on experience and average numbers, we began purchasing enough supplies for 15 people in a small group.
We’ve never run out yet although we have had many leftover supplies. The leftovers simply go into a storage bin after the retreat to be used the next time.
Breakout Session Leader Advice – Letter Template
This template is the actual email I send with advice for breakout session leaders.
Once I began sharing this with my leaders, I saw an immediate increase in confidence; leaders were no longer worried about numbers or what to expect.
Please feel free to copy this template and customize it to fit your needs:
Hello Breakout Leaders,
Thank you so much for leading a breakout session in our Loving Christ Ministries retreat. We are excited to offer such wonderful sessions and to give the ladies a choice as to what they participate in.
I want to make sure that you all know that if there’s anything Brooke or I can do for you, please let us know. If you need supplies, help carrying, moral support, extra prayers, we will be right there.
We made the decision to allow the ladies to just choose their sessions at the retreat rather than have them sign up ahead of time. We have encouraged them to have a first and second choice in mind just in case their first is full. We would like to keep each breakout at no more than 10-12 people. Because they are not signing up first, we really don’t know how many will go to each session. Please be prepared to be flexible. If only one person shows up, then you and that one person have the best time together that you can. We want to provide what the ladies need, and maybe your session is just the one that person needs. If no one shows up, please feel free to join another session so that you can participate.
You have all been in our prayers since the very second you agreed to lead a breakout. We are so excited to share our love for Christ with you and with all of the ladies attending the retreat.
We will see you very soon!
Love in Him,
Breakout Session Leaders Advice
As you work to plan your retreat, always remember that communication and flexibility will serve you well! If retreat planners demonstrate these traits, breakout session leaders tend to follow suit.
Keep all communication lines open and let your leaders know you are there for them.
Keep spreading the word and the emotion that all focus will remain on building positive relationship with each other in Christ’s name.