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.
We are always on the lookout for little remembrances or “giveaways” for our women’s events. I have mentioned before that bookmarks or magnets can sometimes be the easy way to give your women something that will remind them of the message of your event. This year, at our women’s dessert, we used chalkboards as a decorating theme throughout the venue. But we found this great “mini” chalkboard stand on which we wrote the theme and theme verse. We used a permanent chalkboard pen as opposed to real chalk that would easily wipe off. Aren’t they cute? And so affordable! Check out these mini-chalkboard stands! (affiliate link)
After your three major decisions have been made regarding your retreat (speaker, date and location), communication can then begin with your guest speaker. Your guest speaker needs to know what she is to speak about, how many times she will be speaking, how long she will be speaking at each session. Provide this information to your speaker as early as you can–months before your event. This way she can prayerfully prepare her teachings to fit your theme and schedule.
At some of our retreats, we use a theme that the guest speaker has done before at retreats. At our 2015 retreat, our speaker was an experienced retreat speaker who had done previous retreats with the theme “Deeper Still.” We gave her our schedule and let her run with it.
However, if you are providing the theme to the speaker, try to communicate as clearly as possible what your vision for the theme may be. Just giving her a title for the retreat is not enough if God has clearly given you a vision. Communicate with the speaker to let her know if you have a particular emphasis or theme scripture for your retreat. Sometimes your theme scripture will provide an outline for the teaching sessions.
For instance, our 2016 retreat theme was “SHINE!” We are using as the theme scripture Philippians 2:15-16a. We suggested a general outline and other relevant scriptures to give her direction. By doing this, as much as possible we insure that we are on the same page as our speaker as we prepare for the retreat (with decorations, giveaway, quiet time study, etc.).