This, of course is dependent, on who your attendees.
Consider these points:
- What do you want them to experience or learn from the retreat?
- Can you offer educational or career credits for the learning experience?
- Will your structure include some light study time mixed with serious study?
- How much fun, relaxation and games can you include and still have the attendee leave with a feeling of fulfillment?
- Will you have only spiritual application or life experience as well?
Cost will be a major factor in how many people will attend. As you plan the expense side of the retreat, consideration must be given to who will come free or complimentary. The pastor is usually free and has travel expenses included. An outside speaker will have a fee and travel expense must also be included—a per diem many be the best way to work out the total amount. A workbook or textbook may be needed and can be part of the total cost.
Choices include the church facility, a hotel or retreat center. It can be a wonderful “treat” to go outside the area to a retreat center or hotel. Allow the staff of these accommodations to do the work and give your members a total break from responsibility and a chance to focus on the retreat purpose.
Look at the type of hotel/retreat center you want to use. All locations should have meal service on site. Having attendees be on their own for meals may cause schedule problems, higher cost, and getting sidetracked on other things and missing sessions.
A retreat facility will have breakout and general session rooms, but as with hotels this may need to be part of your negotiations. These rooms may be an extra expense or free with a large room block.
As you look at the location for the retreat, transportation is a budget consideration. Schedule also is a factor if travel takes a big part of your first day and closing day. On the other hand, travel can also attract attendees to enjoy a new destination, pre- or post-retreat.
A speaker from within organization or an outside paid speaker can be the single most important factor of your event. A dynamic speaker will keep attendees excited and motivated to be at every session and leave them renewed and eager to share the “Good News” with others.
If you need recommendations for speakers, talk to your colleagues and draw from their experiences. There are several speakers’ bureaus or associations that represent qualified people for such events. The Internet can be a great resource for these organizations, with suggestions by topic or geographic location.
The speaker’s fee is discussed upfront and a deposit is needed to hold the date. The speaker can be a strong partner for a first-time retreat planner and may have a data base of followers that want to know when he or she will be speaking in their area—this can result in higher attendance for your event.
Who should you invite? Many churches include only their own community and their friends. Some organizations use retreats as an outreach to others with similar interests or faith.
Retreat location can influence the decision to open it up to others or keep it within the “family.” Retreats can be a part of family vacation plans. Pre- and post-fun time can be part of the promotion of your event. Many lodging locations will offer special rates for coming early or extending the stay.
Retreats can be the stepping stone to longer tours offered by your travel ministry. A successful weekend retreat can be the best promotion in recruiting a group for a future travel program.