Five Tips for Getting the Most out of a Retreat Center
Whether you’re planning a retreat for 12 people or 1,000, I hope some of my tips can help you get the most bang for your buck!
Earlier this year, I celebrated my tenth year in the camping industry. Ten years of sloppy joes, campfires, and bug spray. By serving with various camps across the country, I’ve learned some secrets for how to get the most out of a retreat venue. Whether you’re planning a retreat for 12 people or 1,000, I hope some of my tips can help you get the most bang for your buck!
- Don’t be afraid to ask.
Ask and you shall receive. Camp and retreat people are there to serve you. If you forget something or your expectations aren’t met, just ask. Your hosts don’t want you to leave disappointed. Sometimes there’s a small fee associated with an added service, but you’re more likely to get what you need if you ask for it. For special or unique accommodations, it’s always better to ask early.
- Know your budget, and get creative with it.
Don’t be afraid to reveal your budget to your retreat venue. Many retreat centers can adjust their packages to fit your needs and your wallet. Be flexible. If you can schedule your retreat for a less popular time of the year, you may be able to swing a pretty great deal. Plan the amount you would like each student to pay—make sure to include programming, transportation, and scholarship costs. Account for any portion the church or fundraisers will cover. If you’re going to need a discount, it’s generally better to have that conversation over the phone rather than through email. At the same time, don’t be too stingy—a great product has a cost.
- Use your connections when you’re looking for vendors.
Make sure to pull from your networks. You may have a college friend who can lead worship, or maybe you know someone in the church who can provide free transportation. If you’re really struggling to find a specific vendor, refer to the first tip I gave you: ask. Retreat centers see vendors come through weekly, and they may be able to refer someone to you.
- Plan early.
“Hi . . . uh . . . I’d like to book a retreat for next month . . . on that popular holiday weekend. You aren’t full are you?” Unfortunately, retreat centers receive this call far too often. Novice youth leaders don’t always know the importance of planning early. If you’re looking for a retreat on a popular weekend or if you’ll need special accommodations, plan ahead. Quality retreat centers can book solid more than a year in advance. Look over your youth calendar, plan out your year, and get on the books somewhere!
- Trust the facility.
You may believe you put together a remarkable retreat agenda, but the retreat center can make your great plan even better. Before your event, request time to talk through your planned schedule with the retreat facility. Make sure to mention any special or important activities. You may be pleasantly surprised by some of the suggestions the retreat venue has for you. You’re paying them—let them help you!
Hopefully my insider tips will help you plan the most effective retreat experience. When you have a plan, you can leverage retreat centers to partner with you. If you’re not the planning type, look for camps that put on programmed retreats. These are designed so groups can just arrive and have everything already scheduled out. And remember that if things go wrong, you can seek the help of a seasoned camping professional.
Frank Colarusso is striving to daily lay down his life and follow Christ. As recovering foodie, when he isn’t taking full advantage of creation at summer camp he can be found serving the church in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Instagram at www.instagram.com/speakingquitefrankly/
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.