4 Criteria For Finding The Perfect Worship Band

One obviously important aspect of a retreat is praise and worship. Singing and praising God makes any church service, retreat, or even car ride more enjoyable, and connects humans to our Lord. Everyone loves music, so this part of the retreat can make or break the whole experience.

If you pick the wrong band or person to lead the worship band, the kids, teens, and/or adults might not feel as connected to God as you intended. Here are four things to look for in a worship leader or praise band to make sure the experience will be a positive one.

1. Hiring good musicians is clearly number one (and I don’t even have to mention that), but do these people have pure hearts and share the same faith as you, your youth pastor, and the attendees? You definitely want to hire people who are like-minded (or similar-minded) or the experience might be lost on them as well as you and your attendees.

2. Can this band recognize and alter the music choice to their audience? If the retreat is for kids, teens, or young adults, you’d probably want mostly praise music. If the retreat is mostly older or more conservative people, you might want more hymns. If it’s for families, you might want a mixture of both. Make sure they know this, think about this, pray about this, and understand this before they arrive at the retreat.

3. Going along with the second tip, can these men or women read the audience’s faces to see which songs are being enjoyed and which songs bore the audience? Can they really get them engaged? Maybe they are doing a mix of praise music and hymns, and they realize that the hymns are getting much better feedback than the praise music, will they know to realize that and then play more hymns? That’s important too.

4. How will you know these other three things? First, go through referrals and/or get some testimonials about the band (if you can). If you can’t (or even if you can), have them play for a few different people on your staff or even possible attendees. Ask them what they would do in each situation that may arise. Really explain to them the audience and purpose of the retreat, and remind them that they’re a big part of it.

So tell us your experience

Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.  For more on the history of Labor Day, click here.

Don’t Let Your Event Attendees Get Bored During Free Time!

You know how conferences need to have free time in between activities and speakers? Well, they also need to have free time elsewhere. If you plan too much, your attendees could feel overwhelmed and are even more likely to skip an activity or simply not pay attention to a speaker. Here are some tips on how to give them the free time they need to focus, enjoy the conference, and simply stay awake.

First, you need to make sure you actually leave some free time. This can be done in a variety of ways. You can start every day at noon to give your guests all morning to relax and explore the conference center or town. You can end one day a little early to give them a night free to try a different restaurant. You can even give them a long lunch one day to pray or hike. Some of this will depend on what activities you have planned, what the weather is like, and what part of the world you are in.

To go along with that, check out what there is to do in the area, and give them an easy-to-read, organized, and extensive list or brochure of the cool activities, noteworthy restaurants, and distinctive places in town (and even at your own venue) to check out. You can learn what’s around by simply calling the site and asking a customer service representative. You can also check out some websites (even their own) to see what’s in town.

What else can you do to help? Provide local transportation information (taxi numbers, bus schedules, etc.), local area maps, prices of each restaurant and activity, directions and addresses to suggested destinations, and any other insider or “local” tips that the venue’s customer service can give you. While some attendees might want to stay in their rooms during free time, encourage them to take advantage of the situation. Your guests will thank you for the hospitality.

What else do you do to help attendees enjoy free time at a conference?

Happy 4th of July!

Top 10 Posts – 2nd Quarter 2012

I think it’s safe to say we’ve entered the dog days of summer and I’m already looking forward to fall. This means the 2nd quarter is behind us and it’s time to share our 10 most read posts over the past 3 months. Hopefully this will help you find a worthy post you might have missed in the past…

  1. 3 Steps To More Productive Brainstorming – Brainstorming with your planning team is a great way to ensure you provide an event your attendees will find engaging and worthwhile.  Here are 3 steps to take that will go a long way to making your next session more productive.
  2. What’s A Hollow Square – As in any industry, hotels and conference centers sometimes have a language all their own. Here’s a little help in translating…
  3. 8 Ideas For Promoting Your Church Retreat –  If you don’t also spend time on strategically promoting your retreat, you may end up with a great retreat that no one attends. With that in mind, here are 8 ideas for helping to promote your upcoming church retreat.
  4. Ridgecrest Recipe:  Rutland Chicken – Have you been looking for something new to do with chicken?  Enjoy and then let us know what you think!
  5. 5 Things To Do AFTER Your Meeting Is Over – Everyone has gone home and you want to relax but here are a few things that still need to be done and will definitely help you in planning future meetings and/or retreats.
  6. Creating A Standout Womens Retreat – A podcast interview with Chris Adams and Betsy Langmade, 2 of LifeWay’s long-time women’s leaders sharing what they’ve learned about planning women’s events.
  7. 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.
  8. 3 Tips To Creating An Unforgettable Event – Here are 3 tips on how to turn your event into an unforgettable experience.
  9. 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.
  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.

Which post have you found most helpful?


3 Key Elements Of Planning Your Next Meeting

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple, easy to use, never fail template for planning your next meeting or conference? You know, something where all you had to do was plug in your dates and times and in return you get a meeting agenda guaranteed to be a smashing success!

Well, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you…this type of meeting planning template just doesn’t exist. And if it did, I’m afraid it would be so expensive, very few of us could afford to use it!

Every meeting, or conference, is different and the people attending those events are different as well. This means you need to take this uniqueness into account when planning. To help you do this, here are 3 key elements you should consider when planning your next meeting:

  1. Purpose – Why is the person attending and what do they hope to get out of this meeting? Typically people will fall into one of two categories. The first are those who are looking for practical tips they can immediately apply on the job or in their life. The second category are those people who are seeking new information, ideas or trends. It could be both, so you may want to look to balance the practical application with also giving them an understanding of the bigger picture.
  2. Structure – How will the information be presented? Again, attendees typically fall into 2 different camps. Those who prefer a lot of specifics/details and those who prefer the ideas to be presented in a broad, general way. The first prefer a clear agenda and well defined objectives, while the latter are comfortable with a more free flow exchange of ideas. Again, your attendees will probably fall in both camps so be sure to consider how you can appeal to both when planning your sessions.
  3. Involvement – The third element to consider is how your participants will be involved in the meeting. Do your folks prefer to be actively, hands-on involved, or do they prefer to take in a lecture and then reflect on what they’ve just heard? The trend in adult learning is towards more participatory involvement, but you will need to keep in mind some folks will not be comfortable in that type of learning environment.

As we’ve pointed out, chances are good your next meeting will include a mix of learning styles and preferences so be sure to offer sessions that will appeal to both. The key is to know your audience and plan accordingly!

What about you? What planning tips have worked for your organization?




Retreats Aren't Just About The Venue!

Mt. Mitchell, NC

Recently I wrote a post about how beneficial it can be for teams to engage in outdoor learning activities together (read here). While getting out and enjoying God’s beautiful creation can be a great thing for work/ministry teams, it’s also a wonderful thing for individuals and families to take advantage of.

When was the last time you attended a conference and took time to get outdoors to enjoy the local scenery? Too many times we’re all guilty of going somewhere really beautiful for a conference, but then spending all of our time in meetings. It doesn’t have to be that way…especially if you’re the one planning the conference!

At Ridgecrest we try to encourage our meeting planners to make time in their schedule for attendees to get outside our meeting rooms. Western North Carolina is so beautiful and we want people that come to Ridgecrest to be able to enjoy the area. With that in mind, here are 6 must see spots we recommend:

  • Mt Mitchell State Park – Known for being the highest point east of the Mississippi River, Mt Mitchell is only an hour away from Ridgecrest. The park entrance is located at mile marker #355 on the Blue Ridge Parkway so just getting there is part of the fun!
  • Crabtree Falls – Another beautiful site that is located only 15 miles further north of Mt Mitchell on the Blue Ridge Parkway (MM#339.5). A moderate, 2 mile loop trail takes you from parking lot to the falls and back.
  • Chimney Rock Park – The center piece of the new Chimney Rock State Park is located only 25 miles south of Black Mountain. Hiking, bird-watching and rock climbing are just a few of the many outdoor activity options available.
  • Pisgah National Forest – Numerous water falls and miles upon miles of hiking trails make this area a very popular destination.
  • Canopy Tours – No longer do you have to go to a rain forest to be able to zip through the tree tops. Multiple canopy tours are now available in western NC.
  • Ridgecrest Hiking Trails – A little short on time? Don’t worry! Ridgecrest has miles of easy to moderate hiking trails right on campus.

So, whether it’s planning your next retreat, or a weekend getaway for you and your family, be sure to consider scheduling some time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Quick question. What’s your favorite outdoor spot in western North Carolina?

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.

5 Tips For Programming Effective Youth Camps

For the past 10 years my family and I have attended Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, TN. During this time we’ve watched God do amazing things through the church and in particular, the youth ministry. Our daughter grew up in this ministry (check out the LHSM FB page), so we’ve seen first hand how God used this ministry to positively impact her life.

Brian Mills is Long Hollow’s student pastor and he is passionate about reaching young people for Christ. In a previous post, I covered Brian’s 5 keys to selecting a location for your church youth camp (read here). In today’s post I’m going to share his thoughts on how to program your youth camp for maximum spiritual impact.

  1. Build around evangelism – It all starts with the speaker. They should be good communicators and passionate about sharing the Gospel. It’s also important to remember the kids (and adults) need a fresh face, a fresh voice. Not one they’ve heard on Wednesday night for the past year.
  2. Worship – Select a worship band that’s humble and willing to do what is asked of them. Their focus should be solely on leading kids in worship.
  3. Keep the program fresh – Don’t fall into a rut each day. Interject games, videos, laughter and other ideas to get the kids relaxed and more open to the Gospel when your speaker takes the stage.
  4. Be intentional creating groups – Camp is a great opportunity for students to play together and get to know each other. This can make a huge difference when they get back to school in the fall.
  5. Keep them busy – Students don’t like to get bored. Keep the schedule moving and engaging. The more free time you give them, the more opportunity for them to get into trouble.

Remember, camp is day one in the youth ministry year. It sets the stage for all that will happen the next school year. As a result, don’t procrastinate when it comes to planning camp. The longer you wait, the more you run the risk of camp being haphazard and not as powerful as it could be.

For camp to be successful, students need to have fun, enjoy fellowship and be impacted by the Gospel. What are you going to do today to help make it happen?

5 Keys To Selecting A Church Youth Camp Location

In just a couple of weeks, churches all over the country will begin taking their students to camp. Whether that camp is run by Centrifuge, Student Life, etc., or the church does its own camp, this time at camp is critically important to the spiritual growth of the students who attend. Many will make first time decisions to follow Christ or rededicate their life to Him, while others will surrender to the call of ministry.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk camp with Brian Mills, youth pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church. Brian is a pro when it comes to taking students to camp. This summer he and his Long Hollow Student Ministry team are hoping to take 1,500 students and adults to camp!

Sure, that’s a lot of folks. But, whether you’re taking 15 or 1,500 to camp, the success of your time at camp really boils down to just 2 things…location and program. Choose a great location, but have a weak program, or the other way around, and the spiritual impact of camp will be negatively impacted.

So, in this first of a two part post, I asked Brian to talk about what he believed to be the key factors when selecting a location/facility to take his students to camp each summer. Here are the 5 keys he listed:

  1. Remoteness – Doesn’t really matter if the camp is actually out in the middle of nowhere, just so long as it feels that way. The more remote it feels, the easier it is for students to let go and engage.
  2. Spiritual atmosphere – This one’s a little tougher to quantify. Really comes to down to why the facility exists. You’re much more likely to create a spiritual atmosphere at a Christian camp or conference center than you are at hotel or condos on the beach.
  3. Ability to control the environment – You can have a great program, but if you don’t have any control over what else may be happening at the same location you could be in trouble. This can be a very significant issue if the facility you’re using is public and not private, such as Christian camp or conference center.
  4. Easy to keep the boys and girls apart – Do I really need to explain this one? 🙂
  5. Varied recreation options – Don’t forget, most kids go to camp because they want to have fun. Make sure the location you choose has enough options to keep ’em busy having fun!

Definitely some good helps from Brian. Any other keys you’d like to add to the list?