Posted in Christian Living

Three Patterns for any Retreat

Couples Retreat PathAnother February. Another three-day couples’ retreat with other church members. Three years and three different patterns for staffing a retreat with presenters.

Was any form of presentation more effective than another? We would need to look at outcomes to determine that. In the moment, the couples at the retreat found nurture in every method.

Perhaps you’re thinking about organizing a retreat. Maybe it’s for men rather than couples. Wonderful. Do it. You won’t be sorry.

Any of these methods could be utilized for any retreat. The choice of presenters or curriculum is the variable to change.

But which method would be best for your group? Hopefully, our experience can help you answer that inquiry.

Three Methods

Presenter from Within

When you’re on a budget, this is the option that seems the wisest. Not only do you KNOW the person who’s going to run the workshops, but he’s happy to volunteer his time and expertise.

There’s no uncomfortable “get-to-know-you” adjustment period. You can jump into the retreat with both feet. Hit the ground running and immerse yourself into the lessons and atmosphere.

Presenter from Without

This option is likely to cost you something. If the presenter is good, he will be in high demand. He might want to speak at your retreat out of the goodness of his heart, but there are travel expenses and curriculum costs. Not to mention his preparation time is valuable.

For our group, we offered our presenter and his wife “time away.” We reserved them their own condominium so they could relax together and retreat away from us. They were gracious enough to be excited about this exchange.

DVD Curriculum

Perhaps you don’t have anyone qualified to teach at your retreat or know a presenter you would want, there is always option number three. The array of Bible-based curriculum for marriage, men and women’s retreats might flabbergast you.

Yes, this one will cost you something. It was about $90 for the DVDs and books we used at the retreat. Depending on how many people are splitting the cost, this can be another cost-effective choice for an outstanding retreat.

The amount of preparation for this is slightly more than if you hire an outside presenter (making sure online resources are available, scheduling the appropriate amount of time for sessions).

Three Responses

At the end of our retreat, we sit together and offer feedback. This year was no exception.

The difference this time was that we were able to reflect on all of the different methods for the retreat. By comparing their strengths and weaknesses, it was clear which format served our group the best.

Each retreat offered a positive experience. The first retreat, with a presenter from within, broke the ice and eased us into the idea of focusing attention on our marriage relationship.

Most people agreed this would be a great choice for a small group, but it didn’t seem fair for the presenter who doesn’t truly enjoy the benefits of the retreat.

Having an expert presenter from outside the congregation was a great way to get to know that man better. However, there was the least amount of group discussion and couple interaction time during that setup.

One hundred percent of those attending for the DVD curriculum agreed this was the most effective method.  It wasn’t perfect. The curriculum could have used more Bible references, but the format was conducive to conversation.

Each session consisted of watching a short lesson, discussing it as a small group (using questions offered in curriculum) and then separating to work through other questions as couples. Not only were the group discussions more enlightening than in the past, but the forced interaction between spouses spurred plans for real changes.

And since the point of the retreat was to draw couples closer together, that means this method was a complete success.

Have you hosted retreats? What methods have you found useful? Is there a difference depending on overall group size? Are retreats for men more effective using a different method?



Freelance writer and editor whose background in education and BA in English Language & Literature amps her love of all things books. Twenty years of parenting and 26 of marriage gives unique insight to her preferred audiences of women, young adults, and teenagers.

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