Preparing an Agenda
Your agenda will be your timetable, your guideline, and your friend during the retreat. While it should include time estimates for how long each part will take, it’s almost a given that at some point your time estimates will be wrong, so it’s helpful to think ahead of time of ways to shorten or lengthen segments or to have an idea of how different segments could be shuffled around. Flexibility will help when you attempt to plan a retreat because you’re planning for people, not machines. 🙂 That said, it is a great idea to have a timer that you set with each segment on your agenda that way you can try to stick as close to the time estimates as possible. At least, try not to completely blow your agenda on the first item, unless you’re comfortable with that.
The Backbone of the Agenda
There is a basic format that we use to plan our meetings that I also followed when I was creating the agenda for the retreat. I used advice from Jill Savage’s book “Creating the Mom’s Group You’ve Been Looking For” and I include opening and closing prayers, as well as time for vision casting, spiritual growth, relational growth and organizational growth. Our group is founded in faith, so I know the other women in the retreat will not be uncomfortable with the prayer time or spiritual growth time. If you’re not ready to make that step yet, feel free to leave out those portions. So what about the rest of it? Even when I read Jill’s book over and over, I had a hard time coming up with the right activities to use for these segments, so I want to share with you what I did and how I found it.These segments are what I call the backbone of the agenda because you will see them on every agenda I create for our group.
Vision casting is one of my favorite parts of the backbone of the agenda. This is where we remind our group of WHY we’re doing what we’re doing. In our case, we’re running a local support group for stay at home mothers in our community. Since one of our members is very new and we’re starting a fresh new year with a fresh new perspective, I thought it would be a good time to check our mission statement during our vision casting in the retreat. Here’s an example of our vision:
Mom Squad is a diverse support network of moms that is founded in faith. It provides informative, economical, social, and kid-friendly opportunities to stay-at-home moms in the community.
We display this mission for ourselves to remember why we’re meeting – without the group, we wouldn’t have a need for our retreat. We also remind ourselves of this vision in different ways during the year, but for our retreat, this is the way I did the vision casting. Another idea for vision casting is reading letters from women or community members who have been affected by your group – it helps to re-motivate us and get us moving in the right direction again. When we think about that direction we want to be moving in, we’re more likely to head that way.
Jill Savage, in her book “Creating the Moms Group You’ve Been Looking For” emphasizes that not everyone starts in the group at the same place on their spiritual journey. For instance, not everyone knows how to pray or perhaps doesn’t know how to pray in a group, could use some more ideas on prayer or other spiritual topics. For our retreat, I passed out links ahead of time to a quiz on spiritual gifts so that we would each learn a little about ourselves, what we’re individually good at, and we’d be able to compare our results within our group. It was amazing to see that we each had gifts in common – and it was a jumping off point for us to get to know one another better in ways we hadn’t broached before. During our retreat, we read about the spiritual gifts that we found we had and recognized them in one another. It was a very powerful moment for us, but it didn’t take long on the agenda. For the purposes of our retreat, digging a little deeper spiritually did help us to bond more closely together, so it was a solid win. It was also neat because our group comprises of women from 3 different churches, and each of the churches (or at least 2, but I think I remember all 3), discussed spiritual gifts that week in church as well. Other ways to plan for spiritual growth include learning more about prayer, reading devotionals, discussing our own faith journeys, and more. It’s really limitless, but it does take some praying and seeking to find the right match for your meeting.
We had our relational growth segment planned at the beginning of our retreat as an icebreaker, but we ended up starting late and this was where flexibility was key to us. Instead of doing our relational growth at the beginning of our retreat, we moved it to during lunch. We were eating and chatting anyway, so it was simple to take out our activity and do it then. We each had a note card with a question on it. You know the type, a get to know you question that helps to share more information about one another, like where we met our spouse, where we went on our honeymoon, what work we did before becoming an at home mom, etc. It was really interesting, and each question sparked off conversations during lunch, so we learned a bit and didn’t have a moment of quiet. Of course, with a group of chatty ladies, I didn’t expect us to have quiet anyway, but it was great to use that time constructively. Other ways to explore relational growth include each member bringing in a photograph (perhaps a wedding photo, a grade school photo or a photo of her as a teenager), reviewing a book that has made a difference in her life, asking questions of one another to learn more about each of us, playing icebreaker games that are designed to find out more, and that type of activity. This segment is one that can really take as little or as much time as you need in your schedule, and it’s fun for everyone.
This term comes from Jill Savage, and it’s one that I struggled with. For me, organizational growth sounds like learning about and strengthening the organization, and it is – but it was easier for me to find ideas and to know what type of ideas I should be working on when I thought of it as Leadership Growth. You see, during this segment we’re focusing on strengthening our organization by strengthening our leaders. We work on leadership skills so that our women will be strong leaders, which will benefit the entire organization. Maybe it’s just me, but I had to look at it differently before I understood the similarities. During our retreat, we worked on goals and priorities. First we looked at what our goals were for ourselves as leaders. I provided an article written by Julia Bettencourt discussing setting personal goals for women’s ministry leaders. Some examples of goals included increasing daily prayer, daily bible study, pre-planning for events, and even improving communication skills. It helped us to look at how we balance home and leadership life. We also explored goals that we had for the women in our group, such as wanting them to develop solid friendships together and being better homemakers. I also included read at home articles on leadership and communication – they were worth reading, pertinent to our group, but I knew we wouldn’t have time for them during our retreat. Organizational growth ideas are huge and varied. For example, in monthly meetings we could each read a leadership book and offer our take on what the important ideas were in a book review, read articles about leadership, learn more about how to be effective communicators… the list really is endless. While it’s sometimes the hardest segment to place and find the right match, it’s not because there are no sources – it’s the most widely available of sources, I think.
So there you have it – that’s the backbone that I use for an agenda, be it for a meeting or a retreat. To see more on my retreat information, check out this post: How to Plan a Retreat for Women’s Support Group Leaders: First Steps (justjoanna.com)