As many of you know, I recently held my first retreat, affectionally named, “The Changemaker Retreat!” I wanted to simply bring Changemaker women together who are living on mission and being the hands and feet of Jesus within their respective careers or fields. We spent one week in October 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa in a beautiful villa, experiencing all Cape Town has to offer. I learned so much during this planning process and thought I would share with others who may feel called to host something like this. I hope these tips are helpful. <3
1. Start the process a year in advance! – So I gave myself about 10 months to plan and I am so grateful. Everything was done in excellence and nothing felt last minute or rushed. Now of course, as you get to the final week before the retreat, there are some things that will come up. But if you have started the planning process early it will save you from having major hiccups. This also allows people to get their Passports and/or Visa’s in advance if they don’t have them already, and it allows people to pay for the retreat in smaller installments.
2. Hire an event planner! So, originally when I began the planning process, I was attempting to do it on my own. I had so many other things competing for my time and attention and could not put my focus on planning this the way I wanted to. I quickly realized that it would best serve me if I hired someone to do the work I didn’t have time to do.
So I hired Juliette Bush of Brave by Faith Travel and here’s why:
· Juliette specializes in faith-based retreats that may have a service element to them in addition to enjoying the luxury and beauty of each country. We loved getting to serve alongside a local church in Cape Town as a part of the retreat. This was something that was already written in my vision!
· I also knew that she had experience with planning retreats for smaller groups of women (the Changemaker Retreat had 12).
· All of our meals were included! This took out the extra time it would have taken to figure out what to eat in a foreign country.
· All of the transportation from the time we were picked up at the airport was taken care of!
· Lastly, I hired her because although I was hosting the retreat I also wanted to enjoy the retreat! Hiring Juliette allowed me to enjoy the experience as well and to experience some surprises! On my birthday, she surprised our group with a helicopter ride over Cape Town and helped make my birthday one of the most memorable ever! I am forever grateful for that moment. <3
3. Have an application process and select attendees prayerfully. -Some people frowned upon the fact that I had an application for the retreat but I don’t regret it one bit. I knew that I wanted my first retreat to be a smaller group of women. So I knew I needed to curate the environment by choosing women who fit the vision I had for the retreat and who I believed would be able to learn and grow from one another. This wasn’t a retreat where everyone had the same personality or background. In fact, everyone was so different. Yet it worked! I can only attribute that to God’s grace, prayer, and a thorough application/interview process to get to know who would be attending.
4. If you have a retreat where there is only double occupancy for the rooms, pray about room assignments – So prior to the retreat as I reviewed the applications, I prayed about the room assignments. I then chose room assignments based on who I knew could pour into each other in some way. I also stayed away from putting people together they knew may have already known. I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to get to know someone new and form new relationships. Today as I look at our 2019 ChangeMaker Retreat What’s App Group, I am encouraged to see the conversations continue because the women truly enjoyed one another.
5. Write thank you cards for everyone that assisted you along the way!- I believe in showing gratitude and strengthening a bridge. We often hear the advice, “don’t burn bridges” which is good advice. But it’s also important to strengthen a bridge by treating people with kindness, and showing gratitude. I love doing this through handwritten cards/notes because it’s something people knew you slowed down and took the time to do and there are lots of people who save things like this. Another cool way to show gratitude to those who serve you during that time is to send a photo of your group pictured with them and a note on the back so they will always remember you. You never know when you will travel back to that place and need the services of those who you met. A thank you card goes a long way!
I hope these tips help and of course if you have any questions about retreat planning feel free to comment and I will be sure to answer them. Also, I will be announcing the 2020 Changemaker Retreat Location at the top of the year! Here is a hint: We are going back to Africa! Yep, I’ve decided to continue the retreat locations within various countries in Africa to explore the beautiful Continent of our ancestors. I hope you can join me next year!