When you sit down to plan a retreat, thoughts typically turn to how your group will be served. Main sessions. Breakout topics. Meals. Schedules. Free time. The to-do list can seem endless. For your next event, why not consider planning an afternoon for your guests to serve others? Volunteering in the community is a great way to get retreat attendees moving and provides an avenue for team building, all while doing something to help in a tangible way. Not all retreats lend themselves to this type of activity; however, if there is availability and you are looking for a different way to spend an afternoon, think about these things as you plan for your community service time.
Think variety. Not all of your attendees will want to do yard work, paint a room or help serve a meal. Some might prefer visiting a nursing home, talking with a homeless person or picking up litter. Offer a few different options appealing to a variety of people. An Internet search of “volunteer opportunities” and the area of your retreat can often open up an array of outlets for your group to serve. If your event location is more remote, talk with area churches or the retreat center to find possible service projects.
Think supplies. If you are hosting your event in an out-of-town location, keep in mind supplies you will need to complete your projects. Construction and maintenance type tasks can be easy to find, but they require very specific tools. Do you have a way to bring these? Are they available to borrow? If you are not in your hometown, consider partnering with established organizations that can provide the equipment you need. It is also important to prepare your attendees for these projects. Do they need to bring work clothes? Painting can be fun, until it gets on your favorite outfit!
Think time. Retreat schedules are usually busy. Considering there might be just a few hours allotted for service projects, look for tasks that can be accomplished fully in the given time frame. Also, make sure there is adequate transportation and allow for travel time as you plan.
If the resources are available, take pictures and video while retreat attendees are participating in different projects. Share these before large group sessions or in a closing video.
At the end of the day, leave time for those who participate to share about their experiences either in a large or small group setting. Often some of the best memories of a retreat are the ones we least expect!