Below you’ll find the show notes for episode 53, How to Plan a Women’s Ministry Team Retreat, from the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast.
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How to Plan a Women’s Ministry Team Retreat
In my last post, I shared 3 Secrets to Building Better leaders and Stronger Teams. I highlighted the importance of learning, serving, and playing together.
Women’s ministry team retreats provide a great opportunity for us to learn and play together.
Women’s ministry team retreats are something I wanted to do for a long time but didn’t for many reasons. Maybe you’re in the same boat. I hope to share some ideas today that will help you work around any barriers you may be facing.
I’m a big fan of monthly women’s ministry team meetings, however, monthly meetings don’t usually offer enough time for long-term planning and deeper team building.
Well-planned women’s ministry team retreats can provide much-needed planning time and relationship building.
In the last few years, I’ve attended three women’s ministry team retreats.
In this post, I’ll break down the where, when, and how of planning a women’s ministry team retreat.
Where to Go on Your Women’s Ministry Team Retreat
Our team used to rent a house for one night in the NC mountains. After two years of not being able to go to the mountains, one year there was a gas shortage and another year the weather was bad, we’ve changed the month and location of our women’s ministry team retreat.
Earlier this summer we went down to the NC coast for one night to plan and check out a future retreat location.
When we couldn’t get to the mountains we relocated our retreats. One time we had our planning meetings in my basement and the other time we had a marathon meeting in the church conference room.
Your retreat could take place in someone’s home, at your church, or a destination.
Honestly, a destination retreat is a lot more fun! Though we worked hard, we all enjoyed a little time at the beach. It wasn’t quite a vacation, but it was invigorating.
When should you meet?
I recommend meeting once each year for a women’s ministry team retreat.
We select a date that works for everyone months in advance so team members can make arrangements for childcare and work if needed. Admittedly, when the retreat time arrives we have had a member or two unable to attend. We’ve forged ahead anyway and tried to take really good notes to share. Our women’s ministry director also talks with them beforehand so she can share any input they might have with the team.
How long should your retreat last?
In an ideal world, I’d recommend a two-day women’s ministry team retreat. That might mean you meet Friday night and all-day Saturday until dinner or that could be a two-night away retreat.
If away team retreats don’t work for your group right now, you might want to do two all-day retreats, one every 6 months. Just be sure to add some time to connect and have fun during your day. Even the best brains need a break.
I should note our women’s ministry budget covers our lodging, but we each pay for our own food and other activities.
What do you do during your time together?
How do you create your retreat schedule?
If time allows, and try to schedule it so it does, a mix of team-building and planning is ideal.
Here’s how we have structured our retreats.
We meet up early in the day on Friday to drive to our location or our first stop. We’ve gone to a local antique mall and grabbed lunch while we shopped. Another time we met at church and carpooled to a local thrift store for an afternoon of scouting out deals. We always eat dinner together. And there’s often a pit stop for coffee.
Friday evening after dinner we’ve done a couple of different things.
- When we had several new team members, we each shared our testimony and our women’s ministry director shared a devotional with us.
- Other times we’ve done some brainstorming – what do we want for the women in our church?
- You could create or revise your women’s ministry mission statement (click the link for help creating a mission statement).
- You could unpack why you do women’s ministry in your church.
Consider starting with an activity that reminds your team of your purpose so that every meeting and activity you plan supports your purpose.
Set aside time to pray BEFORE you plan.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your team.
- Pray for God to prepare the hearts of the women in your church for the next ministry year.
- Ask God to reveal what He wants for your specific group of women.
- Pray God will bring new women to attend your women’s ministry events and activities.
- If you have a small church, you could pray for every woman in your church by name.
- Use the 21 Prayers for Women in Your Church to guide your prayer time.
Saturday mornings have included time to pray for one another and calendar planning for roughly the next 12 months or so. When Friday night was focused on building relationships, Saturday was mostly for planning.
Our women’s ministry director shares the theme and scripture focus for the next year so we can make sure our plans support that focus. (Check out this post for more information on how to select your scripture and theme for the year.)
We don’t plan every detail of every event. We come up with a plan and select preferred dates for our director to submit for approval. If your group takes an annual off-site retreat, you’ll probably need to think beyond 12 months so you can secure reservations and potentially your speaker.
Our women’s ministry director has a written agenda for our time together.
She knows what we need to accomplish and does her best to keep us on schedule. This summer the wait time for dinner forced us to slide everything on the schedule that night. We all agreed to keep meeting later into the night rather than bumping things to the next day.
Flexibility is important.
You may not know the burden or idea God has placed on the heart of another team member until your retreat. Set aside space to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
If planning is not the priority, you could use your retreat time to learn together. Maybe your team needs to rethink the way you’re doing women’s ministry. The Rethinking Women’s Ministry Workbook includes a plan for a team retreat.
You may want to ask your team to read a book before your retreat so you can spend time discussing it. Click here for a list of recommended leadership books.
Your team retreat could include attending a women’s ministry leadership conference. Some teams will stay an extra day or use an included free time to meet together to pray and plan.
Let’s talk team-building for a minute.
- Staying together in one location automatically deepens relationships.
- Sharing rooms with other team members provides the opportunity for you to share your lives with one another. Late-night conversations tend to go deeper than table talk.
- Having meals together provides time to get to know one another better.
- Including time for something fun (playing together from the last blog post) benefits your team too.
- Icebreaker games can also provide connection points for your team members as you share personal experiences and preferences. You’ll find a list of team-building icebreaker games here.
Think of all the ways you can encourage friendships and fellowship. You might not all become best friends, but time together should make you better friends.
What else can you do for fun during your team retreat?
The women on our team like to go thrift store shopping. We’ve shopped and grabbed food at a fun restaurant before sitting down for our planning portion. This summer we scheduled some time at the beach before eating dinner. One of the women on the team brought the game Tidal Ball to play on the beach. It was so much fun!
If your team is adventurous, maybe you go hiking, kayaking, or do a ropes course together.
Traveling together can be a lot of fun too!
We usually change up our carpool seating on the way back so everyone has a chance to visit with each other.
This last trip to the beach provided an opportunity for some extra bonding.
One of our team members had to drive her daughter’s car on the trip because hers was in the shop. We had just hit a long stretch of highway when she looked down and realized we were almost out of gas! The gauges were telling us we had just 23 miles of gas until we’d run out.
Of all the members on our team, the two of us are the least likely to run out of gas. I quickly started searching Google maps (turning around would have put us in stand-still beach traffic) and discovered the next gas station is 23 miles away.
I sent a group text to the rest of the team and asked them to pray. I prayed out loud in the car. We turned the air conditioner to the lowest setting (it was in the 90s that day) and my teammate concentrated on maintaining a constant speed as we both watched the miles tick away as we got closer and closer to the gas station. We were thankful that we were with each other and that if needed, one of the other cars in our group could bring gas back to us if we wound up on the side of the road. The texts flying back and forth provided much-needed comic relief.
By the grace of God we barely made it. To say we’ve grown closer because of it is an understatement.
While the planning that takes place during a retreat is important, developing deeper friendships is priceless.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
My prayer for you is that women’s ministry team retreats will encourage community and unity among all your team members. May you become a cord that is not quickly broken.
Today’s Toolbox Tasks:
- Begin praying about your next, or your first, women’s ministry team retreat.
- Make a written set of notes of the things you sense God wants you to include in your next women’s ministry team retreat.
- If needed, set a date for your next women’s ministry team retreat.
I can’t emphasize enough the difference women’s ministry team retreats have made for our team.
Not only are our women’s ministry plans better, but our team is stronger.
3 Secrets to Building Better leaders and Stronger Teams
How to Host Great Women’s Ministry Team Meetings
Crafting a Solid Women’s Ministry Mission Statement
21 Prayers for Women in Your Church
How to Select Your Women’s Ministry Theme or Scripture Focus
Rethinking Women’s Ministry Workbook
Must-read Leadership Books for Women’s Ministry Leaders
Anchored Women’s Ministry Conference
8 Great Team-Building Icebreaker Games