Spending time encouraging and connecting with Christian ladies is a very rewarding ministry and one that I get tremendously excited about. What is it about spending time with our girlfriends? I have memories of Friday nights with my mom where we would dine at a nice restaurant, enjoy friendly banter and go see a good, clean chick flick. Young girls enjoy sleepovers where they giggle, play silly games and stay up late. We may think we are too old for such antics but if you have ever been to a ladies retreat you know that this is not true. Well, it may be harder to stay up as late but the stories, laughter and games still bring immense joy and fulfillment. If you would like to plan a ladies retreat for your area or congregation, here are some ways to get started.
The best place to start is with lodging and I would book this around six months prior to the retreat. There are many factors that can affect where you stay. We moved to a new congregation and it took a while to find a location that was affordable and met all of our needs. Tell your eldership and ladies that you would like to plan a ladies retreat. The more people who know what you are planning the greater your chance of finding a cheap location. Sometimes, church members own lake homes or know someone who does who would be willing to either let you rent it or use it for your retreat. Church camps are often a great place to have a ladies retreat but many of the elderly may not be able to attend if they have to “rough it” very much. We would really miss out on their wisdom and sweet spirits if we left our older ladies at home. So, always check into your location so that the ladies will know what to expect when they come. Sometimes hotels are good places as well if they have a banquet room everyone can eat and congregate in but a lot of rental “cabins” require a two night minimum. This is not practical if most of your ladies teach Bible class on Sunday morning.
If your facility is not providing all of the meals then I recommend asking groups of 3-4 ladies per meal to cook and the rest to clean up. You can break up the price for the food amongst your ladies. There are many recipes that are easily stretched and are affordable to feed a mass; pastas, potatoes, soups and sandwiches, salads, breakfast casseroles. The first night’s meal could be finger foods. Biscuits and gravy, pancakes and French toast go far for breakfast. Brunches are a great idea because you can combine two meals into one. Don’t forget drinks! Coffee, tea and water are cheap and go far for large groups.
When picking a theme, pick something fun and spiritual. When looking for a speaker, start in your own congregation. There is untapped talent in every congregation-find them! Choose a speaker(s) who is/are solid in their knowledge of scripture, friendly and dependable. If you are the one planning the retreat, don’t give more than one short lesson. Start off the retreat with singing, a lesson, and breakout groups. It sets the tone for the weekend and helps everyone remember that we are there for not just fun but spiritual fulfillment as well. I believe breakout groups are just as important as the speaker. Therefore, your breakout group leaders need to be spiritually sound. When you have a lesson and immediate discussion after, then you have greater retention among your listeners. This is especially valuable when you have newer Christians who are struggling and would either like encouragement or further explanation. They receive the benefit of hearing wisdom from experienced Christians. Fifteen- minute lessons followed by group discussions, where the breakout group leaders ask questions that reflect the lesson they just heard and allow for life application, can be very spiritually strengthening for the ladies. When we talk, we express, when we express, we feel, when we feel, we remember. The lessons will stay with them longer, and hopefully for a lifetime!
One of the best songs to sing at a ladies retreat is “Let the Beauty of Jesus be Seen in Me”, but picking songs for a ladies retreat can be difficult because you most likely won’t have any tenors or basses. I do know a few ladies who can switch to tenor but they are few and far between. Be sure that the song selection will be fine without male counterparts. Songbooks are great but heavy to pack and carry. I recommend making your own. The church secretary may have a CCLI#. This makes it possible to make copies of songs from the songbooks as long as this number is there.
A ladies retreat would be incomplete without ice breakers or games! These allow newer or quieter members to emotionally connect with each other better. I don’t believe there is an age limit on play. If you are struggling to find ideas, check with someone who works with youth or college students. Remember that there may be some elderly or physically hindered ladies, so be considerate of them. Make sure the games are appropriate for them to play as well. Test out the games beforehand with a group of friends. Don’t worry if a game turns out to be a dud at the retreat; just laugh and move on to another activity or have a backup activity.
Door prizes are really fun but can be expensive. There is a website where people pin their crafts and ideas. J Combine these ideas with what people have lying around their house and the possibilities are endless. Mason jars, ribbon, candles, scrapbook paper, and fabric all have great potential. One year we printed quotes onto scrapbook paper and glued them to a piece of wood. It was a big hit and very affordable. Recipe jars, where the soup or cookie mix is already prepared and the top decorated with ribbon or fabric, are also popular. If time permits, the ladies could all make their own craft.
Two major parts of retreat planning cannot be neglected; communication and organization. From the start keep the ladies informed. Make a signup sheet that includes when each lady would be available to leave for the retreat. This helps with planning when the bus or caravan can leave. When there is enough interest in a retreat, write a letter spelling out a possible price, where they will lodge, when you will depart and arrive, what to bring and what to expect. Announce that extra help is needed in putting a retreat together and have a meeting. In this meeting have a signup sheet that includes food preparation, cleanup, breakout group leaders, song leader(s), game organizer(s), and craft or door prize facilitators. One of the benefits of having help is the enjoyment of teamwork. Another is the attendance guarantee. In my experience there is a number I jokingly call “The Magic Percentage”. Due to life events, not all who sign up will be able to attend. It can vary but is usually around 80%. Be sure to keep this in mind when figuring cost.
Lastly, here are some helpful tips:
- Make a schedule, but don’t panic if you can’t keep to it. Many times breakout groups and spiritual discussions take longer than planned.
- Asking for a deposit helps with commitment and if someone can’t come at the last minute you don’t have to foot the bill for their food and lodging.
- Don’t start the next day’s activities too early. Many have been up late fellowshipping and laughing.
- It is very easy to go overboard in planning. Keep it simple the first year and add to it the next.
- Don’t plan and put together a retreat alone. It’s impossible and not as much fun.
- Periodically check in with those who are helping.
- I recommend making a notebook or folder that includes the retreat theme and lesson titles, schedule, songs, breakout group questions with room to answer and an encouragement page where ladies can write words of encouragement for each other.
- Remind ladies to bring their Bibles!
- Be creative and resourceful! The possibilities are endless!
By Angie Henson
Angie Henson has been a youth minister’s wife for 13 years and newly appointed preacher’s wife for nearly a year at Highland Church of Christ in Tecumseh, OK. She has a 12 year old daughter, McKenzi and a 6 year old son, Noah. She taught Elementary school for nine years but decided to use these skills to raise her children and help her husband in the ministry. She has a passion for learning and teaching and helping others to enjoy learning about Christ. Her hobby is jumping and riding her horses and it brings her great joy to share what she’s learned with her children.