Tips For Taking Your Retreat Online

In the wake of the pandemic, women’s ministry leaders around the country had to cancel their retreats when suddenly meeting in-person became a national no-no.

Maybe you were one of them.

With hope that communities and churches would open back up sooner than later, the reality is upon us that getting “back to normal” is still a long ways off. And it’s no surprise that ministry leaders are nervous about rescheduling retreats now or in the near or distant future. Uncertainty looms which causes us to be stuck in a lurch.

But your retreat can (and needs to) go on! Online, that is…

We get it. Planning an online event feels risky…confusing…and uncertain. But take heart! While we don’t know what the future holds, we do know that women in your ministry and your community are eager for a chance to connect—especially now.

For this reason, we want to encourage you to not give up on your retreat plans. An online retreat is a wonderful opportunity to reach an even broader group of women. Women who have never been able to come before due to a lack of childcare, or crazy work schedules, or the guilt of leaving their families for the weekend. And even women outside your community…or in other states or even countries.

Here’s how to start planning now…

Rule #1 of Planning an Online Women’s Retreat: Be Flexible!

Hosting a women’s retreat online will look different than gathering people together face-to-face, and that’s okay!

It’s tempting to get frustrated when your in-person program has to undergo changes. But don’t get too focused on what you’re doing. Instead, concentrate on why you’re doing it. Look at what each piece of your program is trying to accomplish (ex. get women to laugh and connect, share an important truth from the Word, provide a word of encouragement, etc.), and be flexible!

For example, maybe a group game designed to get women to laugh is too difficult to pull off online. Instead, share a link to a funny video clip you like and have women leave comments about their favorite characters or lines. Get creative and don’t worry if each activity isn’t exactly like the program planned. Women will still grow and have fun!

You don’t have to plan your online retreat program from scratch! Choose from Group’s Cafe Chocolat or WonderFull World retreat kits, and we’ll send you a guide for hosting the retreat online complete with digital files for easy sharing.

Rule #2: Choose Your Online Meeting Platform & Test!

Trying to set up online broadcasting tools last minute is not fun. So trust us when we say that you want to set up, plan, and practice leading a virtual session long before your event goes online.

Two common tools for hosting online events that have become hugely popular during the pandemic are Zoom and Facebook. We like Zoom because it gives you the ability to see, hear, and break women into small groups. Plus, your Zoom meeting can be live streamed to Facebook. It’s the best of both worlds!

Need help getting started? Check out our Zoom tutorial here.

Rule #3: Create A Modified Schedule

Often our face-to-face retreats are scheduled to be full-day or weekend events. This time frame is ideal for in-person meetings or groups…but can be overwhelming when women are connecting alone from home. For this reason, we advise you to break your online retreat into shorter sessions, perhaps split between two weekends or once weekly for a month.

Rule #4: Make it Interactive, Engaging, and Spiritually Rich

At Group, we load our women’s retreat programs with hands-on experiences, games, group discussion, and more! We do this because we believe that experiences and conversation are better teachers than passive listening and note-taking.

For this reason, we want to encourage you to resist the temptation to host a lecture-style online retreat and instead challenge yourself to keep your program interactive, conversational, and experiential. Today’s online meeting technologies make this easy to do!

Of course we suggest using a Group retreat for your online experience because we’ve already done all the work for you! Purchase either the Cafe Chocolat or the WonderFull World retreat kit, and you’ll receive a digital packet complete with an online guide detailing how to modify for each specific retreat for an online experience. Plus, other digital materials to make sharing resources with other leaders, promotions, and hosting a breeze.

Remember – Your Retreat Will Be Great No Matter What

Whether your retreat is in-person or online, we’re confident that you can help women connect, grow deeper in their faith, and develop strong, lasting friendships that extend way beyond any limitation. The Spirit of God isn’t restricted by location, technology, props, or programs. Trust him, plan well, and have your best retreat yet!