11 Popular Posts From The First Half of 2013

Wow! Hard to believe we’re half way thru 2013 already.  We hope and pray your summer is going well. Our summer here at Ridgecrest is off to a roaring start, full of groups and summer activities.  In spite of all the busyness, we thought this might be a good time to catch you up on 11 of the most read posts so far this year. Hopefully you will find a helpful  post you might otherwise have missed…

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  1. 5 Gift Ideas For A Women’s Retreat – Giving a gift is a nice (but completely not necessary) gesture that will always encourage memories of the experience. Here are 5 perfect, mostly inexpensive, thoughtful gifts for women.
  2. 5 Tips For Programming Effective Youth Camps – Brian Mills serves as student pastor Long Hollow Baptist Church and is passionate about reaching young people for Christ. Here are his thoughts on how to program your youth camp for maximum spiritual impact.
  3. What’s A Hollow Square? – As in any industry, hotels and conference centers sometimes have a language all their own. Here are some of the key terms a planner needs to know…
  4. A Sample Pre-Event Communication To Your Attendees – Sending out an email, letter or packet to those who register for your event is an excellent idea. Here’s a sample…
  5. 3 Common Social Media Mistakes To Avoid – There are tons of mistakes you can make while using Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media, that will deter customers and fans so we want to help…
  6. 5 Keys To A Great Staff Retreat – Staff retreats can be a strategic part of building a highly productive team. However, the difference between a mediocre staff retreat and a great one is having a good game plan. To help with planning your next staff retreat, here are 5 keys you want to make sure  are part of your plan…
  7. 7 Killer Resources For Event Planners – Books, conferences, articles, and eBooks are waiting to help you better market, organize, and run your next event. Here are some to help get you started…
  8. 7 Questions To Ask Your Event Coordinator – If you’re the group leader or meeting planner, please be sure to take full advantage of all your meeting coordinator has to offer.
  9. 3 Event Must Haves – Want your event to be successful? Here are 3 things you really need to be on top of…
  10. 7 Tips For Getting The Most From A Site Visit – Once you decide to make a site visit, here are 7 tips to help you maximize your time.
  11. Meeting Planner Survival Kit – Many planners need to be prepared to address last minute needs and emergencies. Here is a starter list of items you need to have in your meeting planner survival kit to be prepared at your next event.

Which post have you found most helpful?


Herb Baked Chicken With Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Today’s recipe is another Ridgecrest favorite.  Hopefully after you try it out at home you will agree!

Herb Baked Chicken

8 pieces 6 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 c. Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
1 c. Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs

Marinate chicken overnight in Zesty Italian Dressing.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Shake excess dressing from chicken and lightly coat with bread crumbs.  Bake chicken to internal temperature of 160F.  Serve with creamy Parmesan polenta.


1 box instant polenta (8 oz. box)
1 t. salt
1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

Follow package directions for polenta.  Add Parmesan cheese and salt.

Note:  You may need to add more water and/or salt to adjust for thickness and taste of polenta.

So, You Want to Plan a Virtual Meeting…

Virtual meetings (or conferences) are meetings that are held “virtually” online through a webcam and Internet presentations, or on the phone. (In this article, we’re going to strictly talk about video meetings.) Because of their small group size (generally about 25 people), there are dozens of uses for virtual meetings. Many companies use them to connect with distant or outsourced employees, and some use them to conduct training with new employees or current employees on a new event or job. You can even have a small “event like” meeting with a popular speaker and some guests. Unlike a normal conference, virtual ones are quite simple to plan with only a few steps.

First, make sure this option is for you. Go check out our blog post on the pros and cons of virtual meetings so you have a better idea what you’re about to do. Some meetings and conferences “need” to be held in person, while some shorter meetings (an hour or two) with people from all over the world might work well with this option.

Second, plan how you’re going to format and run your meeting or conference. Are you going to be “face-to-face” with your guests, or just show them a PowerPoint presentation? Are you going to have a discussion with your attendees, mainly talk to them and let them ask questions at the end, or just present while everyone else is muted and listening? This is important to decide before you plan your content.

Third, plan your actual content. If you have a PowerPoint, design that. If you’re speaking, write up your speech (or an outline, at least). If someone else is speaking, hire that person. Make a schedule of what is going to happen when. At this point, you can also create your guest list to use when you market.

Fourth, purchase a virtual meeting plan online. The most popular virtual meeting site right now is GoToMeeting. There are dozens of these sites, though, so do a quick Google search and see which is right for you. Check the price, how many people they allow, what features they have, and even if they have an option to record them. Study a bit before you put your money into a tool you might be using multiple times.

Fifth, market like you normally do. Tell prospective attendees when the conference is and that, at that time, they will receive an email or phone call from your virtual meeting site to connect with you. At this point, decide if you are charging people or not, and figure out what tool you are going to use to register your guests.

Sixth, well, that’s really it! Once you have your information planned and ready to go, and you have your guests informed about the event, all you do is sign in, create your event, invite your guests through the event, and present! (This is different for each site, so just go to their “how-to” to learn…but it’s pretty easy!)

Island Grilled Chicken w/Mango Salsa

As I mentioned in last month’s recipe post (read here), I love it when Ridgecrest gets to host LifeWay’s trustees. Not only are they some great men and women to hang out with, we get to eat a lot of really great food!

Today’s recipe is another trustee favorite. This was the second year in a row that we have served this entree at the outdoor banquet at Camp Ridgecrest. This chicken (along with the orange ginger shrimp wraps) was a big hit. Hopefully after you try it out at home you will agree!


Island Grilled Chicken

  • 8 – 6oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups Knorr Caribbean Jerk marinade and sauce
  • Marinate chicken breasts in 1 cup of marinade for 36-48 hours
  • Remove chicken from marinade and grill (high heat) for 1-2 minutes on each side
  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Transfer chicken to a broiler pan and brush both sides with remaining cup of marinade
  • Bake in oven until done (internal temp of 160F)
  • Remove, top with cold mango salsa and serve

Mango Salsa (combine following ingredients and refrigerate 3-4 hours)

  • 2 cups pineapple chunks
  • 2 cups mango chunks
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup diced jalapeno

Will A Virtual Meeting Work For You?

How many of you have participated in a webinar or virtual meeting in the last 12 months? I would guess that many of you have. What did you think? Was it a positive experience? I’ve participated in several, including one in which I was actually part of the presentation and my experiences have been mixed.

Ready or not, virtual meetings are here. They are big in the marketing world and are expanding into other niches. Since they are solely online (or on the phone), they are quite different than other meetings. Does this mean they are better or worse than onsite meetings? Well, that depends. Below is a list of pros and cons to help you decide what may work best for you and your organization.

Virtual meetings can certainly be more convenient for your guests. Anyone with an Internet connection can attend with just the click of a button. Your attendees don’t have to travel, no hotel arrangements need to be made and they can even attend the meeting in their favorite pajamas.

A virtual meeting can be easier to plan. After you have your speaker(s) and topic nailed down, just sign up for a virtual meeting service (a popular one is GoToMeeting), market the way you normally would and send people the date, time and website to join in. That’s basically it.

For these reasons, virtual meetings or conferences can be less expensive for you and your guests. Your marketing costs might stay the same, but the meeting provider websites offer affordable packages, there’s no food to buy and you don’t have to worry about travel arrangements and costs. And, since your guests don’t have to worry about travel costs, it’s also much less expensive for them as well.

Guests at a virtual meeting are present, but not really there. It might be easier for people to lose interest or stop paying attention when watching/hearing someone speak online. (For me personally, I find it way too easy to mentally check out of an online meeting.) This can have a definite negative impact on the learning taking place. Presenters have to keep this in mind when planning and speaking so they can try to keep their viewers attention.

Since attendees at a webinar are not physically there, networking is difficult and building relationships is next to impossible. An important part of meetings and events is networking, so this is a significant negative for virtual meetings.

Internet issues can be a major pain in the neck with virtual meetings. Your company may have technical difficulties. It’s also likely that at least one or two of your guests will have a problem connecting to the meeting, will get dropped from the meeting because of Internet issues, or that their computer simply won’t let them sign in at all. These annoyances are frustrating for everyone involved.

So, what do you think? Can a virtual meeting work for you?

Ridgecrest Recipes – Orange Ginger Shrimp Wraps

For the past several years Ridgecrest has had the honor of hosting the fall meeting of our LifeWay Trustees. It’s a great opportunity for our trustees and senior LifeWay leadership to experience all that Ridgecrest has to offer.

During this year’s meeting, our catering team once again did an awesome job with the food. In fact, I believe we all ate way too much! Today’s recipe was served the first night at a dinner reception held over at Camp Ridgecrest it was delicious. The recipe actually came to us via our food service manager’s son. If he’s got any more as good as this one, sure hope he passes them along to dear old dad!


  • 2 pounds large peeled/deveined raw shrimp
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 12 8″ flour tortillas


  • Mix orange marmalade, soy sauce and ginger. Marinate shrimp in mixture for 4-6 hours.
  • Toss shredded cabbage in 1 cup white cilantro sauce (recipe below) and store in refrigerator.
  • Saute shrimp until just done (as soon as they turn pink).
  • Arrange 4-6 shrimp and 2 tablespoons of cabbage in flour tortilla and wrap.
  • Serve with remaining white cilantro sauce.

White Cilantro Sauce

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon each cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper
  • Mix all ingredients and chill for at least 2 hours

After trying this one out, be sure and let us know what you think!



3 Ways To Ensure Positive Team Building

Planning an effective team building retreat can be a daunting task.  Organizing activities to foster creativity and group participation to generate new ideas is tough. Here are  3 ideas to keep in mind while leading any team building event to ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.

Build Trust – Trust is a huge part of life, no matter if you’re at work or at home. If you don’t have trust, communication and collaboration will also be nonexistent. If some people aren’t participating, or they’re getting their few ideas shot down, it’s going to be hard for them to trust the group. Keep an eye out for this and remind them how it’s done!

Increase Communication– Communication is a huge piece of team building, and also a giant part of any group work. The fact that everyone understands what is going on, who is in charge of what, what the exact goals are, and what steps to take to get there, is crucial. As the “boss” or “planner,” talk to your groups, be available to listen to their comments, and invite questions from staff, coworkers, and other guests.

Boost Collaboration –Some people work best when collaborating with others, while others excel working alone with little to no outside help. If you’re having a corporate team building retreat, or any kind of retreat that focuses on team building, a lot of independence needs be left at the metaphorical door. Team building is all about learning together, growing together, and working together. While conducting your team building strategies, keep an eye on people who are trying to take over the conversation or group, and encourage everyone to participate.

Keeping these 3 ideas in mind during team building activities will ensure positive results.

How have you implemented these ideas with  your team?

Overworked At Work?

Feeling a little overworked at work? Trying to squeeze 60 hours of work into a 40 hour work week? If you answered no to both of those questions, count yourself very fortunate. In today’s economic times, a company or organization trying to squeeze more productivity out of fewer employees is quite the norm.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling overworked I tend to push the blame for that elsewhere. I think I sometimes fall victim to this tendency because it’s easier to complain and blame others instead of taking responsibility. In today’s guest post, Jason Dyba (creative director at Long Hollow Baptist Church) takes an honest look at why being overworked may just be our own fault and then gives some great suggestions on how to overcome being overworked.

I hate it when my boss assigns me a ton of work, more than can feasibly done in the allotted time. I hate when he/she has no clue what is required to accomplish such a task. I hate when no one helps me on projects that are beyond a 1-person job. And, most of all, I hate when the entirety of this problem is really my fault. 

 You see, over time I’ve realized that if my primary response to being overworked is… (read entire post here)

When feeling overworked, what works for you in reducing that tension?

Moving An Organization From Unhealthy To Healthy

Today’s post is the final installment in a series written by Ed Stetzer (VP – LifeWay Research), dealing with unhealthy Christian organizations. Unfortunately this is an issue that many of us have had to, or are currently dealing with. Hopefully these posts can be of help to you, or someone you know.

In the first post Ed described 6 symptoms of an unhealthy organization (read here) and in the second one he discussed what to do if you find yourself in an unhealthy organization (read here). In this third post, Ed looks at what a healthy organization looks like and how an organization can move from unhealthy to healthy.

Previously at the blog, we’ve looked at unhealthy Christian organizations (part one, part two) and the response has been quite surprising. I’ve had calls from numerous Christian leaders telling me that they were printing out copies for their staff… and I’ve had people from more than one organization ask if I was talking about them. To quote Rick Warren, no, “It’s not about you.”

It is about a pattern, and this pattern is both real and widespread. Some organizations really are unhealthier than others, and, unfortunately, I’ve seen it– as you probably have as well.  (click here to read entire post)

Was this blog series helpful? Would love to get your thoughts below!

3 Common Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

I think it’s safe to say social media is now mainstream. I would wager those of you reading this post use it for personal use and, more than likely, have started using it for your ministry or business as well. By utilizing social media, organizations and ministries can talk about anything from daily happenings to innovative ministry ideas; from new products and services to an exciting event you’re throwing.

But, as we’ve seen during this year’s Olympics, you can also do social media wrong. (just ask Hope Solo) There are tons of mistakes you can make while using Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media, that will deter customers and fans so we want to help. In addition to utilizing a heaping dose of common sense, here are 3 big social media mistakes for ministries and organizations to avoid:

  • Not monitoring/responding – Too many times I’ve seen organizations establish a presence on social media and then put it on autopilot. Not good! Someone must be monitoring your accounts and, when someone comments on your brand or messages you, respond. It’s that simple. To do otherwise is the same as ignoring a person standing next to you who’s trying to talk with you. You don’t want your customers and clients, or potential customers and clients, to feel neglected. Customer service is key for any business. Answering a Facebook comment with a unique response will help make the person feel noticed and important to you. This will undoubtedly increase their loyalty to your brand and help you build relationships.
  • Not speaking enough…or speaking too much – Yes, you need to update content on your social networks frequently, otherwise you run the risk of not being noticed. However, there are a few guidelines about posting you need to keep in mind. As a general rule, posts to Twitter should happen about three times more often than Facebook posts. Twitter is real time; no one really goes back in time to read tweets…or at least not as frequently as people do on Facebook. On Facebook you can get away with posting less updates because most users will scroll and/or look at your profile for new information. In either case, you want to make sure your tweets and posts are not so frequent that your followers are tuning you out, or even worse, unfollowing you!
  • Not using each social network independently – Over time we have learned linking Twitter to Facebook, and vice versa, is not the best idea. This is because your “friends/fans” on Facebook are usually different than your “followers” on Twitter. Facebook is for posting pictures, sharing ministry stories and encouragement, updating with “inside” information your customers love to get and anything else that helps your fans connect with you on a more personal level. Twitter is for quick, short updates about your ministry or organization, industry news, links to helpful information, etc. While conversations and personal details are available on Twitter, more people look for that on Facebook.

Bonus content!

Did you know there are certain days and times that you should update Facebook and post to Twitter? Here’s an excellent article explaining the ins and outs of posting on Twitter, with a little information on Facebook as well!

What lessons have you learned when using social media?