Our plans were grand, but our budget was not. Our women’s ministry team had a long standing dream of hosting a women’s retreat, but we didn’t have a lot of money (around $250.00) and would need to pull from as many outside resources as we could.
God was good to us, and so were the people He surrounded us with that helped us pull it off.
If you’re familiar with church budgets and line items for ministry, you know that sometimes you have to figure out creative ways to make things happen. But how do you host a women’s retreat or event, meet your event goals, and stay on budget? I hope that by sharing my experience of retreat planning on a budget, it will help spark some ideas and tips for you if hosting a retreat is one of your dreams.
We decided early on that we wanted a more intimate environment, which is why we chose to host ours in a home. A family friend offered to let us host the retreat in her home that sits on a small, beautiful lake, and was large enough to have a moderate sized crowd. We knew we needed to limit the number of women who could attend, so we capped it at 25 women. I don’t think putting a space limit on your retreat is a bad thing at all. It creates an imitate setting that one doesn’t often get at a larger retreat and it is also budget friendly. If your church is available, that is another way to save money on your retreat space.
We chose to host the retreat in the evening. We began at 4:00 pm with several ice breaker activities. You can easily find a variety of ice breaker activities online, but I would encourage you to choose them based on your group’s demographics and level of comfort with one another. After the ice breaker activities, we broke for dinner prepared by a local caterer. He was wonderful and offered us a great price since we were on a “church budget.” Pretty much our entire budget went to food, but it was the one area we decided we didn’t want to skimp on.
If you don’t have money for a caterer, you could ask each woman to sign up to bring one dish and do a potluck. We also provided table talk cards for the women to discuss over dinner. It was nice to see them asking each other things like “What is your dream job?” and “If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be and why?” The cards were free, since I printed them off of Women’s Ministry Toolbox.
After dinner we had a coffee bar, which was graciously provided by a few friends. They offered to provide all the goodies and I have to say, the women loved it. You don’t have to have a Pinterest-worthy coffee bar to do this! You could come up with something entirely different that fits your group a little better, like an ice cream bar or candy bar.
After dinner, with coffees in hand, we moved into the message and focus of the evening. Our theme was Immeasurably More, based on Ephesians 3:20. Much of the evening centered on the mighty ways God works in us and through us. It seemed fitting to have someone share about a time when God did a mighty transforming work in their life, so we had a time of personal testimony. We lined this up ahead of time, but also opened it up for other women to share if they felt led.
I felt very early on that God was opening the door for me to bring the evening message and our team was more than supportive of that. Speaking is part of my calling, and God-sized dream, so I asked our team to pray about me being the speaker for the evening. Are there some gifted speakers in your group? Sometimes you don’t need a central speaker, but just offering a time where women can share their testimonies is powerful. I would encourage you to plan ahead for this. Ask a few women ahead of time to prepare something and then open it up. You don’t want your retreat or event to hinge on someone volunteering on the spot, so do your best to plan for this. Also, look for outside sources. Speakers can be expensive, so try to think outside the box. Reach out to other churches or ask friends for recommendations. You don’t want to just throw anyone up in front of your group, but there are women around you who may have the calling and gift of speaking. Use them!
Our retreat ended at 9:00 pm, which turned out to be a little late. We ended with an invitation and reflection activity, but I think if we could have ended around 8:30 pm, it would have been better. We sent out a survey to all the women who attended and asked for their feedback, which was super helpful.
Five Important Tips for Hosting a Women’s Retreat on a Budget
Keep materials and supplies minimal. Look at your activities and figure out what you truly need for each thing and go from there. Print what you can at home and shop your local dollar stores for supplies in bulk.
Let women showcase their gifts. If you have speakers or writers in your group, or women who are especially crafty, ask them for help!
Get creative with decorating. If your retreat is usually held in January or February, check out the after-Christmas decoration sales. Shop dollar stores and look at what you may have at home that can add some small touches and ambiance. You would be surprised at how far a few candles and small decorations go.
Offer a prayer room or quiet place to pray and reflect. If you have the space available, it’s always nice to offer women a quiet place to go and sit with Jesus. You can do this in a bedroom, a living room, or even a small classroom.
Most importantly, have a clear vision. Pray, pray, and pray some more over the vision God has for your women and your event. Having a clear vision of what the Lord’s desire for your event is can help because it enables you to remain focused on His will for the event and not get caught up in the decorations or other small details.
Bringing women together in the Word of God to learn more about Him is the ultimate goal.
It really doesn’t matter if you have a potluck, nice dinner, or fancy decorations, as what will be remembered is the way they felt welcomed and loved. You don’t need a big budget to do that. You need some open hearts, willing hands, and a few women ready to receive His love.
Have you hosted a retreat before? What tips or advice would you offer someone planning a retreat on a budget?