A Word of Encouragement

We all need encouragement.  Retreats often provide a great opportunity for spiritual renewal and foster an environment for encouragement.  Not every event lends itself to set times for encouragement, but if yours does, consider incorporating an activity that allows participants to encourage and be encouraged.Thank YouHere are a few ideas for encouragement activities you can do at your next retreat:

  1. A Pat on the Back:  Tape a piece of paper on each participant’s back.  Have all the participants write an encouraging word describing that person on the paper with a marker.  When everyone has written on each person’s back, they can take the paper off and spend a few moments reading what others wrote.  (Note:  this activity requires a little bit of space and light activity as participants walk around to write on each back.)
  2. Snapshot of Encouragement:  This activity is similar to the one described above with a few twists.   One-by-one, have each participant sit with his/her back to a dry-erase board.  The other participants write a word describing that person on the board.  When everyone has finished, take a photo of the person sitting in front of the dry-erase board and then erase it.  After the retreat, print and mail or email these pictures to each participant.  (Note:  this activity takes a bit longer since each person goes one-by-one.  You may need to divide your group into smaller numbers depending on your size.)
  3. Secret Messages:  Before your retreat, write each participant’s name on a manila envelope.  Hang these on a wall or bulletin board in a common area.  Throughout your event, have participants write encouraging notes to each other on provided slips of paper, and place each of these notes in the corresponding envelopes.  At the end of your retreat, give each participant his/her envelope.  (Note:  Announce this activity at the opening of your retreat so the participants will have ample time to write notes.  Encourage each participant to write a note for everyone attending.)

These are just a few encouragement activities you can try at your next retreat.  While these are designed for smaller events, you can adjust how these are implemented to accommodate larger groups.  The easiest way to do this is to divide your group into smaller numbers.  As an added bonus, these activities provide a tangible take-home for participants to remember the retreat.  Make sure to include yourself (as the event planner) in this activity too!  Even you can use a word of encouragement, especially in the hustle and bustle of your retreat.

Lend a Helping Hand

Volunteer PostWhen you sit down to plan a retreat, thoughts typically turn to how your group will be served.  Main sessions.  Breakout topics.  Meals.  Schedules.  Free time.  The to-do list can seem endless.  For your next event, why not consider planning an afternoon for your guests to serve others?  Volunteering in the community is a great way to get retreat attendees moving and provides an avenue for team building, all while doing something to help in a tangible way.  Not all retreats lend themselves to this type of activity; however, if there is availability and you are looking for a different way to spend an afternoon, think about these things as you plan for your community service time.

Think variety.  Not all of your attendees will want to do yard work, paint a room or help serve a meal.  Some might prefer visiting a nursing home, talking with a homeless person or picking up litter.  Offer a few different options appealing to a variety of people.  An Internet search of “volunteer opportunities” and the area of your retreat can often open up an array of outlets for your group to serve.  If your event location is more remote, talk with area churches or the retreat center to find possible service projects.

Think supplies.  If you are hosting your event in an out-of-town location, keep in mind supplies you will need to complete your projects.  Construction and maintenance type tasks can be easy to find, but they require very specific tools.  Do you have a way to bring these?  Are they available to borrow?  If you are not in your hometown, consider partnering with established organizations that can provide the equipment you need.  It is also important to prepare your attendees for these projects.  Do they need to bring work clothes?   Painting can be fun, until it gets on your favorite outfit!

Think time.  Retreat schedules are usually busy.  Considering there might be just a few hours allotted for service projects, look for tasks that can be accomplished fully in the given time frame.  Also, make sure there is adequate transportation and allow for travel time as you plan.

If the resources are available, take pictures and video while retreat attendees are participating in different projects.  Share these before large group sessions or in a closing video.

At the end of the day, leave time for those who participate to share about their experiences either in a large or small group setting.  Often some of the best memories of a retreat are the ones we least expect!

Why Make Team-Building A Part Of Your Retreat

What do you think of when you see the words team building?  My mind immediately goes to a trust fall…that’s the olde standby activity in most organizations.

I recently read a story about an NFL coach surprising his players with a bowling trip.  He used this time to build camaraderie between his players.  They’re a literal team.  The offensive line has to block for the quarterback.  The line backer has to support the defensive line.  You can see how those pieces come together.

Most organizations are not football teams but need similar team-building exercises.  Why?  Here are four reasons.

  1. Gets you out of your comfort zone. I’ve worked in big organizations and little organizations. When we’ve done a large group team-building exercise, I was forced to work with people inside the organization I didn’t know. This can be a great thing as it can lead to other collaborative ideas.
  2. Relationship building. This can relate to the first reason, because even in the same department, you may not know the person working in the cubicle next door.
  3. Allows you to see your co-workers in a different light. We always put up our work fronts. We probably don’t know it, but these fronts come up when we go to church or conferences. These team-building exercises allow these fronts to come down.
  4. Sometimes you need a reason to get out of the office. When I worked in a big organization, our department always took some time once a quarter to get out of the office. We went bowling or to the batting cages. Not much of a big deal, but it was great to laugh and get rid of that extra stress.

Do you find including team-building exercises as part of your event are important?  Why?  And what are some team-building exercises that you’ve used?

About the Author:  I am currently an artist manager for Michael Smith and Associates.  I work with promoters and event planners to coordinate their concerts that feature our acts.  I’ve been in the CCM business since I was in 8th grade having worked at a Christian bookstore and then Word Entertainment.  I’m also a drummer and attend ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, TN.  My wife, Caron, and I have one daughter, Molly Cate.  Most importantly, I’m an Apple fan. Follow me on Twitter: @KyleBJohnson

Don't Get Stuck In A Classroom!

One of the numerous advantages Christian conference centers have over hotels is the natural setting that surrounds them. Not only does the natural setting provide your group the opportunity to get away from the distractions of the world, but it also provides your group with the opportunity to get out of the traditional meeting room setting.

Recently I read a blog post entitled “What I Learned About Leadership From A Low Ropes Course”. It was written by Michael Hyatt and in the post Hyatt talks about how beneficial he found going through an adventure learning experience to be. Here’s a quote: “I love reading books on leadership and attending seminars. But as helpful as these are, they are not the same as doing something together with a team. There are some things in life that are best learned by doing.” (Read full post)

I loved reading this post! See, I’m a big believer in adventure or experiential learning. As Hyatt points out, it’s one thing to read about a subject or sit in a classroom listening to a lecture, but it’s another thing all together to actually get out and learn by doing.

I think this is especially true in dealing with leadership and team-building. Getting a group out into an adventure setting helps to break down barriers and level playing fields. If facilitated well, this type of learning can have a huge positive influence on growing leaders and building teams.

When was the last time you incorporated adventure learning into one of your retreats? How did it work for your group? If you haven’t done this yet, why not? As you think about these questions, I’ll leave you with one last quote from Hyatt’s post…“Find a retreat center with a low (or even high) ropes course. It is well-worth the investment.”

Interested in learning more about adventure learning? If so, here’s a link to the Ridgecrest website where you can get more information (click here). Also, feel free to call 828-669-4844 and speak to one of adventure learning professionals.