Recently you may have noticed that my posting frequency has tapered. I’m not sure if I’ve shared yet here, but there’s a good reason for it – I’ve stepped into a leadership role in a local support group. I’ve been a member of this group for stay at home mothers since my first son was born 4 years ago. I’ve had to be less of a member at times when I went back to work after my husband’s heart attacks, but for just under a year now I’ve been home again and an active member. Our last leader was ready for some down time away from leadership, ready to grow in a new direction, and I was ready to step up. So voilà! It happened. More of my time is spent working on, planning for, and coordinating our moms group, but I don’t want to neglect blogging because it is something that I enjoy.
I’m working to become a better blogger, and two of the bloggers I think are superheros (Alison from BeingAlison.com and Trish from HeyLady.net and TLC Book Tours) have both been helping me out with advice. This week they both suggested that I at least attempt to weave the leadership role in our mother’s group in with my blogging – it’s easier to write about something you’re doing and passionate about than it is to take the time to find new things to write about that aren’t relevant to your life. That’s why I started blogging about books in the first place, actually. In fact, if I hadn’t started thinking that way, I doubt I would’ve ever known Trish. But I digress. The point is, I’m now going to attempt to merge the two interests – blogging and a leadership role in a support group for stay at home mothers. So here goes…
My experience in retreat planning comes from planning a retreat for the small group of leaders that do the planning, scheduling and coordinating of events for our local support group for stay at home mothers. While our group is “Christian Lite” with bible verses present, a prayer line, and is supported by local churches, we don’t require all members to share the same beliefs – our group is diverse both in parenting styles and beliefs, and we like it that way. Our core group, or steering committee as we call it, are all members of Christian churches. We typically hope to have at least 3 different local churches represented in our steering committee that way we can represent the variety seen in our group . Our retreat, like our group, is founded in faith, which may differ for other support groups.
Laying the Framework
- Determine the goal for your retreat. In our case, we experienced a change in our core group of volunteers with 2 moms stepping down from the steering committee completely as well as our change in leadership. The goal of our retreat was to strengthen the relationships of our core group of leaders, as well as our vision for the group . Our leader who was retiring had been one of the co-founders of our group, so the rest of us had a little catching up to do to learn what had been done in the 6 years since the group was started to know where we’d been and where we wanted to go. Since we hadn’t all known one another as long, part of what we were doing was getting to know one another better.
- Find a theme for your retreat. The theme can be as specific as Lemons where every decor item is yellow, you play an icebreaker with lemons, have a lemon centerpiece, etc. (My first idea for our retreat was lemons… can you tell?) Or you could have a more general theme based on a verse or quote that you’d like to stay true to throughout your retreat planning. For our retreat, I found the following verse helpful:
Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong in common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts. – Proverbs 24:3-4
All of our activities were grounded in planning, common sense, and knowledge of facts. For instance, we had an icebreaker first to get us into the groove (which we didn’t actually get to until lunch but…) that asked questions about each one of our personal histories like “Where did you go on your honeymoon?” When you plan a retreat the theme can dictate as much or as little as you prefer. Our verse didn’t tell us which colors to decorate with on the table, but it did lead us in picking the activities we used.
- Determine a time schedule for your retreat. Will you be meeting one day or over a weekend? Since we are stay at home mothers, it’s more difficult for us to get away by ourselves. So we plan for one day and find a day and time that works for the women who are on the steering committee. For us that meant 9am to 3pm on a weekday. Between babysitters, dads with days off and dads working later shifts, we managed to keep all the kids occupied so we could have a mom-only retreat. Not as much gets done during our monthly meetings that doubles as a play date for the kids, so it was important to us to have a kid-free event for our retreat. It’s important to consider other schedules like the kids when you plan a retreat that way you know if you’ll need a sitter on site, if you’ll need to meet in the evenings for a week, or if a weekend event would work. You could even plan games or activities for the dads and kids to do while the women are at the retreat.
- Find a location for your retreat. We’ve used a B&B for our retreats in the past, as well as for some of our social events. They have fantastic food, a beautiful location and building, and very reasonable rates. Plus, the innkeepers are just about the sweetest folks I’ve ever met. So we already knew where we planned to hold our retreat this year, and it works out well for us. You’ll want to make sure that you have facilities that will meet your retreat requirements. We knew that we’d be there for a full day, so we had a quick breakfast, lunch, and snack served. Not having to do the food ourselves freed us up to be able to continue the activities up until we ate, but you could easily do a smaller scale retreat in someone’s home with pre-prepared food. Make sure you remember to plan the refreshments when you plan a retreat! Thinking makes for hungry mamas. 🙂
Now the main steps are taken care of – you have a why, who, where, and when. To me, this was the hardest part when you plan a retreat. Once you know your retreat goal, theme, schedule and location, the activities that you’ll want/be able to do will fall into place more easily. When you know why you’re meeting, it’s easier to find what will work for your meeting. After the first steps, you’ll need to draft an agenda, find activities, prepare materials and tie in takeaway items so that your attendees will remember your retreat. And lucky you – I’ll be posting about these very same topics this week!
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