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How to Fail at Planning

By Kayla

Retreats are fun. Retreats are inspirational. Retreats are something you look forward to every year. Yet, they do have the potential to be unsuccessful. Considering retreats are nothing but worship and good times, that seems like an impossibility. It’s pretty hard to do fun wrong. For as much success as we have seen throughout the years, we have also learned just what it takes to have the opposite effect.

Step 1. Don’t have a central theme/idea.

You’ve probably got lots of ideas for this retreat. Sure they don’t all go together, but that’s okay. Mixing it up will keep guests on their toes, constantly guessing what will come next. Plus, the vaster array of information you can distribute, the better.

Step 2. Stress out your planning team.

Working together can be hard. And with poor leadership, it gets even harder. An unhappy and untrained team will surely fail in booking, scheduling and contacting guests.

Step 3. Make the registration process as complicated as possible.

Few things are a greater deterrent than a complicated sign-up form. And if you lose people at stage one, you don’t stand a chance of getting them even close to the door of your event.

Step 4. Forgo promoting.

People won’t be attending an event they don’t know about. Okay, maybe don’t scrap the material altogether. Just put a post on Facebook or an announcement in the bulletin.

Step 5. Don’t follow up after the event is over.

Once the event has ended, there is nothing more you need to do. It’s over. You did your job already.

Solutions for each step.

1. Everything starts with your focal point. This is your reason for the retreat. What everything else is based around. Most of the events that happen on CRN properties are meant to draw people closer to God. If that is your intention, then don’t let it waver from any single aspect of planning. Random and scattered is no way to plan. Get your central idea and stick with it. This also includes your theme. Games, worship, and meetings must all help to build on the central reason for your retreat. After all, that’s why everyone came.

2. Now, for those of you not planning all alone (which is probably a good idea, because it’s a pretty difficult feat to accomplish for one) the team is a key factor in success/failure. An overworked, stressed out, spiteful team is not going to be able to accomplish anything. To learn about effective recruiting, check out our blog “TEAM Effort”. The most important thing to remember is work together, communicate, and make sure everyone feels like a part of the team.

3. Registration is one of your most important tools when planning. Whether you use a paper form or website, the process should be quick and easy to fill out. What you need from guests is name, contact information, shirt size, package preference (i.e. dorm or motel style lodging), and deposit. Make the form easy to find and turn in. If you need some guidance, we have created a sample registration form that you can edit to fit your event needs.

4. Before people can start signing up, they need to know about the event. A post or announcement is important, but not near what it will take for good attendance. Not only do you have to tell guests about it, you need to keep reminding them of it. A good promotion strategy will slowly dispense information as it continues to draw hype for the event. Tools include emails, flyers, postcards, and social media. Use the materials within your means to reach as many people as possible.

5. The energy, excitement, and lessons learned don’t end when everyone goes home. Send out evaluations to see what everyone liked and disliked. This can help you better plan in the future. Share pictures, video, whatever you’ve got with the rest of the congregation so that they can see how it went. They may even be enticed to go next time.

We are sharing these tips, not to scare you away, but so that you can avoid them in your own planning efforts. And don’t forget, our planning team is always prepared to help guide you through the process, so that you can have the best event possible.

Christian Retreats Network /

Based at Lake Williamson / PO Box 620 / Carlinville, IL 62626