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  • Writer's pictureAnna Shellman

Planning An Effective Retreat

The Basics:

Kids playing at the pool

Step 1: The Big Picture

What is the purpose of this retreat?

When it comes to planning your own custom retreat, you have to start with the big-picture. What is the purpose of the retreat, what do you want people to take away from their time, or what do you want your group to accomplish during the retreat?

Do you want to build group unity? Do you want to have a relaxing retreat for your people to recharge and reconnect with God? Or do you want a fun, activity-filled escape from daily-life and routines, where you can reach the non-believers in your group with the message of the gospel?

After you ask yourself these questions, take some time to think about your group’s demographics and all of the different personalities who will be attending. Are they going to want to take the time to relax and just hang out - or are they going to want a regimented schedule with fun activities in-between? Answering all of these questions as you are planning your retreat will help you know what you want to accomplish during the retreat. Once you know your purpose, you can move on to the next step!

Step 2: Spiritual Impact

A major consideration is going to be the theme and curriculum of the retreat.

a girl leading a worship service playing piano

This step takes some time to develop - but you can start with the basics:

  • What is the main “message” or takeaway of this retreat experience?

  • What is the primary goal you want all of your participants to meet?

  • How would you define success in terms of what your people walk away from the retreat with?

Once you figure out the theme, core curriculum, and main message of the retreat - you can move onto the next steps.


Step 3: Schedule

Once you know the purpose for your retreat and the subject matter, you can plan the schedule!

When it comes to building your schedule, there are essential questions you should take into consideration - especially if you choose to host your custom retreat at Thousand Pines.

  • How long will your event last? Will you need overnight accommodations? How many days?

  • How many meals will your group need?

  • How often will you be meeting and what size of meeting space will your group require?

  • What activities do you want to include?

Step 4: Housing

If you’re planning for your retreat to be an overnight event, you should take into consideration the type of housing you want. At Thousand Pines specifically, we offer several different varieties of housing.

A cabin in the woods

Step 5: Meals

Even groups that only join us for a few hours will likely want a meal! While you may make alternative arrangements, you can always enjoy a delicious meal with us.

Our meal times can change, but traditionally we serve breakfast at 8:00 am, lunch at 12:00 pm, and dinner at 5:30 pm in our dining hall. We serve delicious meals, and even offer drink stations, dietary options, and of course - delicious desserts!

Step 6: Meeting Spaces

You’ll most likely be planning several meetings and/or breakout sessions for your group. For those you will need meeting spaces. At Thousand Pines we have several meeting spaces for you to choose from.

There are several meeting spaces we have to fit the needs of your group. We have everything from large group meeting spaces like Jensen Chapel (400 max), our Outdoor Amphitheater (500 max), to medium (100-150 max), and small (20-50 max) group spaces available for you to choose from!

The priority for the larger sized venues is based on your group’s size. Almost all of our meeting spaces have the option for amplified sound and multimedia presentations.

Step 7: Activities

Once you get the fundamentals of your schedule down (meeting times, mealtimes, and housing) - you can start to plan the activities you want!

A person on a zipline

Now is an excellent time to think about the demographics of your group:

  • If you’re bringing a group of children you will likely want to have tons of activities with lots of structure involved.

  • Teens will likely want to have venues to hangout in; the Skatepark, the Malt Shop, the Big Oak Coffee Shop, and the Rec Den are all great options for them.

  • Adults enjoy relationship-building and hanging out, so the Big Oak and the Malt Shop are also great to have open throughout the duration of the retreat.

Additional Considerations:

Add Ons:

Some additional details for you to consider: communion, baptisms, and venues like the McKee Prayer Chapel being open. You may also need to consider the smaller details such as drink stations, snacks between meals, special needs amenities, break-out rooms, health care facilities and late night activities.

One of our core values is to “Say ‘Yes’ Whenever Feasible.” So go ahead, put us to the test. When you talk to our Guest Relations staff, feel free to request whatever you need to make your retreat a memorable success.


At the end of the retreat it is a good idea to evaluate the success of the retreat, especially if you plan to do it again. Send out a survey, or have your participants answer questions about the retreat. What went well? What should change? This way you can improve the retreat for the next time!

Pre-Planned Retreats at Thousand Pines:

If you want a pre-planned, pre-programmed retreat for your church, group, or family - check out our Programs at Thousand Pines! We offer family camps in both the spring and the summer, adult retreats (men's, women's and young adult's), kids and youth summer camps, and kids and youth winter camps!

Whatever the season is, there is something for everyone. We hope that this planning guide has been helpful, and that we will see you at your custom retreat or at one of our camps soon!

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