When I first set out to plan and hold women’s retreats, it never occurred to me how many fails I would have!
Oh sure, doubt that I would know what to do crept in on occasion, but when it did I studied and researched and made my way through each obstacle along the way.
It’s kind of embarrassing to admit now the many retreat planning fails I experienced despite my best intentions and preparation. But hey, we can learn from our mistakes, right?
With this post, my hope is to help you learn from my mistakes, too.
No matter how much time we spend planning, unexpected things will happen.
Fortunately, going into a retreat with as much in place as possible and with eyes wide open, you can roll with the punches and take care of mishaps as they occur.
Retreat Planning Fails and Lessons Learned
1. Worrying about number of registrations
In the beginning, I wanted to have 50 attendees. Having many people at our retreat would validate our purpose…or so I believed.
Worrying about the amount of people caused me to doubt myself and whether I was really hearing God’s call to plan retreats. In prayer one day, I came to the realization that numbers didn’t matter.
If only one person came, then we would ensure that one person felt support and encouragement in Christ’s name. Once I understood that numbers didn’t matter, I felt free to move forward with my plans.
2. Not charging enough to cover expenses
Finding the balance between expenses and what to charge the ladies wasn’t easy.
We wanted Loving Christ retreats to give the attendees a chance to be pampered and to not have to worry about anything except growing closer to God and to each other.
In order to provide everything we wanted, the cost kept rising. By the time we figured how much we would have to charge to cover expenses, we were at a loss.
For the first retreat, we took the loss and paid out of pocket for the extra. Since then, we’ve learned to cut costs in a variety of ways including ‘hiring’ a cook (she gets her retreat weekend free as payment) to make wholesome frugal meals, making use of volunteers (women and also our youth group), and more.
3. Having a speaker who talked for almost two hours with no breaks
I was so excited for our first speaker who planned to talk about all Christ had done in her life. She had a fascinating story I knew many would relate to.
When the time came, she spoke and spoke and spoke.
While her testimony touched many, the length of her talk became a distraction. Sitting that long made many of the women restless. As they became more fidgety, I could tell they were losing the depth of her story.
What I learned about this situation was to always talk with the speakers ahead of time and let them know specifically what the timeframe should be.
I hadn’t communicated with our speaker as to time expectations and she had no idea. That’s not her fault!
4. Not having someone sit at the coffee bar in the afternoon
Well, this one wasn’t something I thought we’d have to worry about.
Once our retreats grew and we had women from surrounding communities we didn’t know, we should have made a few adjustments in our coffee bar.
With smaller, local retreats, we’d left our coffee bar open in the afternoon without supervision. The ladies could go in as they chose and make a variety of hot drinks with k-cups and mixes plus grab a cookie or pastry as a snack.
Then, one weekend, imagine our surprise when we checked on the coffee bar to neaten up and found that someone had taken every single one of our k-cups.
We had 100s so we knew they hadn’t been consumed. We handled it by simply deciding that whoever took them needed those k-cups more than we did and then moving forward by getting all the mixes in place so that the ladies could still have hot drinks.
That was an expensive mistake, though, and from each retreat forward, we had volunteers scheduled to ‘run’ the coffee bar any time it was open.
5. Planning to use sky lanterns on a windy day
One sunny April weekend retreat, we put together a complex and meaningful closing activity for Sunday.
We planned to do it right before clean up and departure. It included a cumulation of all we’d been working on throughout the weekend. Part of the activity included writing out what we needed to ‘let go of’ in our lives on sky lanterns.
Then, as a group, we would release the lanterns (biodegradable) to the Lord.
Well…. No one (me!) checked the weather, and we didn’t realize how windy the forecast was. Because we were at a campground surrounded by woods, we couldn’t release our lanterns.
Without that big finale, the meaning of the activity didn’t pack as big of a punch. From then on, I learned to check the forecast AND to have an alternate activity just in case.
Moving Forward after Our Fails
Our women’s retreat planning fails will continue, I know. Despite each of them, it’s so worth it to bring women together for support and encouragement in Christ’s name.
I pray that I’ll always learn from my mistakes and from others that are shared with me. I’d love to hear some of the ‘fails’ you’ve experienced and how you handled them. Add them to the comments below!
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