Choosing The Right Entertainment

Entertainment for an event/retreat is always a nice addition.  Choosing the right entertainment is key.

In my “day job” as an artist manager, I work with all kinds of entertainment.  I thought I would take a moment and give you a few things to look for when looking for entertainment.

  • Music
    Like any form of entertainment, picking music is a tough one.  Do you get a band?  A singer/songwriter?  Or someone singing to tracks?  These different variations also bring other issues.  For instance, production.  If you have a band, sound plays into the equation and budget.
    Another point to consider with music is style.  Do you want a party atmosphere?  Do you want a reflective time?
    Here’s a for instance: I work with a band, Denver and the Mile High Orchestra.  There are 12 guys on stage.  LOTS of production involved with them.  From a style standpoint, they can be a 60’s/70’s era band, they can do hymns, patriotic or Christmas or they can do a regular show.  Looking for a band that will give you different options is key.
  • Comedy
    If your event/retreat has been particularly stressful, having a comedienne is the perfect way to wrap up on a light note.
    Production is not much of an issue for a comedienne.  Most of the time, all they need is a mic and a stage.
    Style is something to consider when choosing the right comedienne.  You probably don’t want someone who would make you feel uncomfortable if your mom or dad were present.  And you probably don’t want someone that is political in nature.
  • Speakers
    Don’t get this confused with a comedienne.  A speaker is someone who is coming in to do a talk on a particular subject.
    Production is only a minor consideration for speakers.  Some will probably have PowerPoint presentations, or the like.  Having the right hookups for a computer are key.  Some speakers travel with these things, but never assume that.

Whether it’s a band, comedy or speaker, coordination ahead of time is important.  A quick phone call is all that is needed.  And don’t forget to loop in the sound engineer.

One last tip: there are several agencies out there that represent all of these different types of entertainment.  Working with them can help you get the right fit for your event or retreat.

5 Gift Ideas For Your Women's Retreat

A retreat is a wonderful time for a person to grow spiritually and mentally. They are usually a mixture of relaxing, exciting, and thought provoking. One idea that could put a cherry on top of this already amazing sundae is a little gift. At a smaller women’s retreat, giving a gift is a nice (but completely not necessary) gesture that will always encourage memories of the experience. The idea of giving a gift, no matter what it is, is the sign of a considerate host or planner who has really thought of everything. Here, I will highlight 5 perfect, mostly inexpensive, thoughtful gifts for women.

Book – This might sound bland, but hear me out. I don’t mean handing out a common book that everyone might already have, or a book that’s irrelevant to the retreat, but that might be popular at the time. Think about a book that really is related to the main topic of the retreat.

Jewelry – Once again, I don’t just mean to get her any type of jewelry. A bracelet that has “faith” or “believe” inscribed would be perfect. Every time she wore it and looked at her wrist, she’d have a flashback of all her memories from this retreat.

Seedling – If your retreat has anything to do with personal growth (as most often do), then a tiny seedling that will one day grow into a healthy plant will be a representation of who they are as a person. This will also be a reminder of what they learned on their retreat.

Grab Bag – This idea is similar to a popular Christmas party activity. Everyone brings a wrapped gift, puts them all in a pile, then each person gets to pick one out of that bunch. This can also be an enjoyable icebreaker, since everyone will start chatting about their gifts! If you choose this idea, just make sure you give everyone a price range (under $10, under $5, handmade, etc.) so they’re all pretty equal!

Journals – Journals, diaries, notebooks, whatever you want to call them, will be helpful throughout the whole retreat for a woman to take notes, record important tidbits, and write down how they are feeling during the whole day or weekend. So make sure to hand this one out at the beginning of the first day!

What are some other ideas that you’ve used for your retreats?

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

What Did I Learn On That Retreat Again?

A retreat is meant to be a calming time where kids and adults feel closer to our Lord Jesus Christ. While at the retreat, it’s easy to feel the rush that comes along with the exciting weekend. But, once you get home, that high wears off, and it’s easy to fall back into your everyday routine. As a pastor, speaker, or event planner, you want to do everything possible to make attendees feel God’s love and implement the lessons learned weeks, months, and years after a retreat.

In a blog titled, “3 Ways to Make Retreat Lessons Memorable,” we discussed what to do during a retreat to help attendees after the event. (Go read that if you haven’t!) Now that you’ve applied all of those ideas, here are some tips on what you (the pastor, leader, etc) can do after the retreat to help your guests keep the retreat message in the minds.

  1. Send an informative email to the attendees of what you did that week. If you didn’t give an outline or notes during the retreat, you can give them after. Talk about what lessons were learned, what discussions were had and what activities were present. If possible, writing personalized notes to each attendee would be a nice touch as well.
  2. In the email, you can also (with consent) send a list of contact information of all staff, volunteers, and attendees. Having the names and phone numbers (and Facebook URLs) of other people could easily create long-lasting friendships between anyone at the retreat.
  3. Mailing out a DVD is another option to remind attendees of what was taught. Listening to the worship part of the retreat can mentally bring attendees back to the event very quickly, giving them the same overwhelming feeling of Jesus all over again.
  4. I was discussing this topic with a friend, and he gave me the best idea of all: Have each attendee write a letter to their future selves. During a break or at an activity, have guests write a letter to themselves about the event: how they feel, what they’re learning, and reminders of how they see the world at that exact moment. Then you can mail these letters a few weeks or months later.

Any other tips to keep the retreat feeling alive after it’s over?

6 Ways To Choose A Conference Center For Your Retreat

Every little aspect of a retreat is important, from how many people attend, what age group they fit into, what activities are presented, and the overall purpose of the retreat. One other aspect that is equally as important is where you’re going to have the event. Sure, if you’ve read past posts, we talk about how awesome Christian conference centers are, but wait…how do you choose one? There are dozens and dozens and it’s not easy to choose! Here are 6 tips to (hopefully) make it much more simple.

1. Physical Location – If you’re planning a one-day retreat, it’d obviously be best to choose a place close to the homes of everyone invited (maybe in the same city or a geographically close city to where your church or group is). If it’s a bigger retreat where many people from all over the country are invited, think of weather concerns and…well…read the rest of this post to get more ideas.

2. Activities – What activities do you want to engage in? Do you know conference center or two that offers those? These activities can be fun daytime or nighttime activities to relax and get away from everyday stress and worry, or they can be the actual purpose of the retreat (if you’re going to volunteer or the like). Either way, if you know what activities are important for the retreat, you can plan around that.

3. Money – Don’t overspend when choosing a center. Always stay under your budget. Trust me. You will be overspending on other things like food and random material items you forgot to plan into your budget. End of story.

4. Personal Interest and Spiritual Fit – This one might seem obvious. If you are having a retreat for a certain denomination of church, then make sure your Christian conference center abides by the same rules you and your church abide by. If it’s a non-denominational retreat, think of the personal interests of you and your attendees. If you’re from a certain town that eats meat for three meals a day, make sure you don’t go to a strict no-meat-serving center. Or, if you don’t want any denomination presented at all, make sure you go to a center that doesn’t (obviously) promote their denomination at every corner.

5. Testimonials and reviews – Have you heard rave reviews about any conference centers? Or, have you heard negative rants about any? Keep these in mind when planning. Listen to your friends, coworkers, and any other brothers and sisters of Christ for suggestions. Also, look for reviews and testimonials on the conference center’s website, as well as any other review sites through a search engine (like Google). Keep in mind what the reviews say, though. If one person says it was too hot outside, or that they wish a certain amenity was offered that you don’t care about, then those are not reviews to pay attention to.

6. Overall “vibe” – There’s a good chance that, at the end of the day, you’re stuck between two or three venues. Did you visit all of them? If economically and geographically possible, I would suggest you do that. If you can’t, talk to a few people there. Look at their website’s pictures. Consider each (legitimate) review you read. Is one standing out more than the others? Pray about this and listen to God. This retreat will change people’s lives, and you want to plan it as perfectly as you can. God will be there every step of the way, so feel His presence and listen to His Word. If the “vibe” feels off, then move onto the next place.

What do you think?

3 Ways To Make Retreat Lessons Memorable

Everyone knows that information and lessons learned at retreats can help attendees for a lifetime, but getting them to remember and utilize the information is the key to success and a life closer to Christ. It’s simple to learn a lesson, believe in and understand it, then a week later either forget about it or push it in the back of your head. So, while what you teach at a retreat is important, the knowledge they take home afterwards is equally as vital to their growth as Christians. Here are 3 tips to take care of during the day or weekend to ensure your lessons will be remembered, implemented, and lived for years to come.

  1. Whether your guests are students or adults, singles or couples, first-time attendees or veterans, they must write down notes and ideas. Giving them a small notebook and pen is great for note taking during discussions and can also serve as a journal for writing down a synopsis of the day before they fall asleep. Giving guests an outline of the speaker’s notes can help them to follow along during a lesson. Or, you can also create a study guide with questions to answer at the end of a discussion or on the attendees’ own time to think deeper about lessons taught. Frequently rereading their notes could easily bring the attendees back to that retreat feeling of love, worship, praise, adoration, and closeness with Jesus Christ.
  2. When teaching a lesson, implement what you’re saying into your attendees’ possible or likely routine. For example, instead of just saying, “This is how to talk with God when you’re in a stressful situation,” say something like, “This is how to talk with God when you’re in a stressful situation, like before a final exam, during your driving test, on a first date, or even in a more serious situation like if your parents are fighting or going through a divorce.” Giving specific examples will make it easier for the kids (and adults) to bring that information home and implement it in their lives.
  3. Giving prayer tips at your retreat can change a person for a lifetime. All Christians pray, right? But that doesn’t mean we do it correctly, or in the way that Jesus would want. Teaching retreat attendees a daily task such as this one will stick in their brains. Getting back to the feeling of being at a retreat is difficult, but repeating activities that took place there could evoke the thoughts and emotions felt during that unforgettable time.

 What are some other ways to help retreat guests remember lessons when they arrive home?

5 Things To Keep In Mind When Planning A Personal Retreat

A personal retreat is good for every single person on this entire planet. They will help you get away from your (probably stressful) every day life and give you a chance to relax and remember who you are as a spiritual being.

When going on a personal retreat, it’s important to relax, get away, be alone with God, and let your stress disappear. But, none of this can happen if you plan it “wrong.” There are five quick tips on planning your own weekend getaway.

1. Plan your weekend…at least a little bit. Plan things like when you’re going to leave, where you’re going to go (whether it be a park or a beach or a city or a retreat center or any place that makes you feel less stressed and much calmer), and what you’re going to bring (clothes, personal items, your Bible and other spiritual books or material, snacks, a journal, etc…). Without this teeny bit of planning, your calm feelings may never arrive.

2. Keep your schedule flexible. You might come up with great ideas on the way, and nothing will stress you out more than wishing you had more time to do the things you want because you planned too much already. I know I just told you to plan a little, but keeping most of the day openly planned will leave room for new ideas.

3. Make sure you’re really alone. No computer. No iPads. No cell phones. No meeting up with friends for dinner. This is a time to be truly alone, so take advantage of that. (But, if you have a close family, let them know where you’ll be so they don’t worry!)

4. Pray, pray, pray! Pray wherever you are, no matter what you’re doing. Get close to God during this weekend. Yes, this trip is about being alone, but being alone with God is the real purpose.

5. Engage in physical activity. This can be a walk on the beach, a hike in the woods, a swim or canoe trip, or anything that will let you see God’s beauty while simultaneously giving you some necessary fresh air.

What about you?  When was the last time you got away by yourself?

Going Deeper By Going Away

“We can’t afford to get away for our retreat.”

“Let’s just hold it here at the church.”

“Our people don’t want to drive 2 hours for a retreat.”

How many times have you heard comments like these while planning a retreat for your church? While they may sometimes have merit, the reality is when you hold a retreat at your church, it isn’t a retreat. Your folks don’t really have a chance to unplug from the world. Distractions are everywhere and, unfortunately, most of your people will give it to them.

Today’s guest post, written by Kevin Witt, does an excellent job of laying out why people can go deeper with God by going away. Kevin is Director, Office of Camp and Retreat Ministries at the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, TN and the following article is being published with the permission of iTeach Newsletter.

By Kevin Witt

In observing the life of Jesus, we notice a clear pattern of going away, in order to go deeper with God. The choice is made by our Lord numerous times in Scripture to seek out a place and a pace different from the normal rigors and responsibilities of his life, even when people’s needs were not yet fully met. He went away to quieter places in the natural world to pray and to reflect more deeply on the meaning of his life. This deliberate pattern of spiritual retreat contributed greatly to his effectiveness as a spiritual leader and teacher.

The teaching of the Sabbath and Jesus’ example of retreats invites us to enter places apart from our normal surrounding and to embrace rhythms and understandings counter intuitive to our harried culture. By encouraging those in our congregations to go on retreat, they, also, learn some essentials of faith and discipleship through direct experience. When we model the practice ourselves, we guide and inspire them to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Retreats teach people to receive through letting go, to move closer by being still, to hear the Divine Word in silence, to move forward through retreat, to act on God’s behalf by resting, to learn community from solitude and strangers, and to discover ways to be more present at home by taking time away. Jesus’ teaching invites people to release their grasp of their customary patterns in order to discover deeper dimensions of life. This is part of the meaning of his promise – “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). These dichotomies are part of the reason that faith-based retreats are so dynamic and influential.

Retreat settings provide unparalleled opportunities to focus and be attentive to God, to each other, and to our own hearts as an intentional way to take our discipleship to a new level. Many Christian camp and retreat centers have a schedule of programs and events already planned that are available to your church members and leaders. Folks looking for congregations with multiple options in terms of faith forming opportunities would find these offerings to be an added asset of your congregation. Retreats are a wonderful element to incorporate into every congregation’s Christian education and spiritual formation plans.

Questions for Moving Forward:

  1. When you consider the members of your congregation, how might a camp or retreat help them move deeper in their connection with God, each other, and a life of Christian discipleship? What type of retreat or retreat theme would be particularly powerful related to the current vision and goals of your local church?
  2. Have you visited or been in contact with the Christian camps and retreat centers in your area about any assistance they may be able to provide to a team from your church that may be considering offering a camp or retreat for groups within your local church?
  3. Have you considered placing a link on your own local church website entitled “Our Camp and Retreat Program” that would take members and prospective members seamlessly to the many offerings available to them in your local region by linking them to the camp and retreat ministry websites?