As retreat season ramps up into high gear, I have some thoughts for your planning committee:
I am reprinting a popular blog from a couple years ago. I thought it apropos as we all gear up for our fall women’s events!
I heard this song (from a 1980’s sitcom) again this week, and I think the lyrics hit the nail on the head as far as “step one” in caring for our women. You may recognize these familiar lyrics:
Sometimes you want to go Where everybody knows your name…
And they’re always glad you came…
You wanna be where you can see your troubles are all the same…
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.”
I think that song writer was onto something! Maybe the very first way that we can show our women that we care is by learning their name….and letting them know that we are glad they came…and being open and honest so they know that they are not alone in their struggles.
How can we create that caring atmosphere in our women’s ministries? I know we all want it–we want everyone to feel welcomed and comfortable in a safe environment that encourages open sharing. I think it has to start in our leadership and trickle down from there. We as leaders need to do what it takes to learn names and go out of our way to welcome people. We need to be open and honest about our daily walk and daily struggles and temptations so that we can all come to the foot of the cross together in weakness and humility.
I can tell from the number of “hits” on this website that many are looking ahead and starting to plan for upcoming women’s events and retreats. We are too. So far, we have the theme, the date and the venue nailed down. We thought we had a speaker, but we are back to square one on that. Here in the planning stages, I have to admit, our retreat schedules and activities look very much the same from year to year. We alway have promise verses; we always have a quiet time study; for the past few years, we have done an interactive Bible study workshop, all of which our ladies have come to expect along with the teaching sessions.
During Bible study this spring, I felt like the Lord spoke to me from a story in the Old Testament. If you remember, in Exodus 17, the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness and there was no water for them to drink. The Lord told Moses to take his rod and strike the rock in Horeb. When he did, water came out for the people to drink. Later, in Numbers 20, Moses faced a similar situation–thirsty complaining Israelites. This time the Lord told Moses to take his rod and speak to the rock, and it would give forth water. However, Moses took the rod and struck the rock twice. Water again came out for the people. However, this was an act of unbelief and disobedience, and because of it, God punished Moses.
I have always looked at this story as willful disobedience on the part of Moses. However, I looked at the story a little differently this time. What if Moses was doing what he knew worked the first time? That doesn’t excuse his disobedience, but it does make me understand him a little better.
As we plan this year, are we falling back on schedules and activities which have worked before? Or are we seeking the Lord for His direction, being open to His changes and new things? It is something to ponder. I don’t want to fall into sin just because I was only doing what worked before. Don’t be tied to the past; don’t assume that what worked before is how God wants to work now!
Something I love: I love walking into a women’s event and, at my first glimpse of the room and its decorations, my first reaction is “WOW.” I love being surprised and excited about what is to come based on the look of the room. The world calls that “The WOW Factor.” I’m here to tell you that “The WOW Factor” does not require a huge decorating budget, which most smaller churches do not have.
What the “WOW Factor” does require is someone with vision who is willing to develop it within your working budget. We are a small church. Sometimes we may have a little left in our account from previous retreats or events which is available to use. We are trying to keep the price of the retreat down as much as possible, so we try to add as little as possible to the individual retreat price.
Here are a few ideas for creating a budgetary margin for decorations:
- Offer table decoration for sale after the event
- Add a small amount to the individual’s cost for the event designated to decorations
- Use multi-purpose decorations that can double as give-aways
- Use the crafting talents of your ladies to create what would be too expensive to purchase
- Do focal point decorating
My husband has the “unfortunate” ability to predict the outcome of movies and TV shows. He is rarely surprised by a plot twist; somehow he instinctively knows who the bad guys are and what will happen before it happens. Sometimes I will ask “Have you seen this before?” His answer is “No, it just makes sense.” And normally within a few minutes, it happens just as he has predicted.
Me–I’m perfectly content not knowing ahead of time, and being surprised as the story unfolds–at least when we’re talking movies or TV.
However, when it comes to retreat or event planning, I prefer NO surprises. I appreciate being able to predict the course of events, and to plan ahead for any contingencies or unforeseen glitches. Of course, we do try to anticipate potential problems and plan for them. But there are always “plot twists” — things that come up that are totally unpredictable and out of our control. A speaker gets ill at the last minute; the venue makes a last-minute change; the equipment doesn’t work or is incompatible; a skit prop doesn’t make it to the venue; or, at the very least, you have a bad hair day… You can pretty much count on something happening.
We’ve been there many times. My advice? Remember that what we consider a “plot twist” was ultimately orchestrated by our loving Father, who is in control. Do your best and commit the rest. These “plot twists” are not a surprise to Him. Sometimes I think God allows something unpredictable so that He can work in a new way in our midst, and then He will get the glory.