There is nothing like getting away from it all, except for when you do it with 20+ other women, then it’s a party! Well not really, but it is loads of fun!!!
Every third year my women’s ministry team plans a get-away. We host a women’s conference and retreat for the other two years. Our last get-away was to Louisville, KY to hear Priscilla Shirer. This year we took off to Somerset, KY to see both Lysa Terkeurst and For King & Country in concert. (You can see our women’s ministry main event strategy at the end of this post.)
In case you would like to plan something similar for your ladies, here’s how we pulled it off. I will forewarn you, it was not perfectly executed, but it will provide you with some excellent guidance just the same – learn from our (or should I say “my” ) mistakes.
Choose your venue.
At the beginning of the year I started scouring the websites of our regional churches and some of our favorite speakers to see what was available. It was like finding the jack-pot when I spotted Lysa Terkeurst was going to be only two and half hours away with For King and Country in concert together!
When it comes to travel time I think keeping the trip below three hours is a must; much more than that can become more deflating than invigorating. While church youth groups may ride five and six hours without a second thought, most women are not up for that kind of trip. This length of three or less hours is long enough to only need one restroom stop typically.
Look for accommodations.
Try to stay with a hotel chain so you will have some point of reference of what the quality of the rooms will be like, and choose a hotel close to your destination. Who wants to ride another 20 or 30 minutes to get to the event?
Once you have found suitable and inexpensive accommodations, book a block of rooms. You will have to use a credit card to hold them. I decided on 10 rooms because we may have up to 40 women go on the get-away. If they ask for a rooming list by a certain date, MAKE SURE to get them the rooming list by their deadline and CONFIRM that they have your rooming list.
Based upon my most recent experience, I recommend double-checking the confirmation on your rooms the week of the get-away, and maybe even the morning of. I wish I had done this because it would have saved me from almost having a meltdown when I was told upon arrival that they did not have our reservation. I had sent the rooming list and requested an email confirmation. When I did not get it, I called the hotel and they did not have it. The hotel’s manager asked me to email it directly to her so she could take care of it. She emailed me back and said we were all set. This was about three weeks out from the event. Well, apparently, she did not handle it, so there I was with 25 women and no hotel rooms, so they said.
The desk clerk kept trying to tell me that I must have spoken to another hotel in the area that had a similar name, but when I gave her the three names of the people I had spoken to, she confirmed that those were her hotel’s employees. Make sure you have your confirmation number in hand as well. This would not have done me any good in my scenario because they had deleted my block of rooms after they thought I had missed my rooming list deadline. Also, they never told me that without receiving the rooming list by the deadline would have cancelled my reservations. Make sure to write down the names and dates of who you spoke with when you confirmed all of your reservations in case the confirmation number is no help. Since I did have names of whom I had spoken with, the clerk then called a manager for instructions. They ended up upgrading most of our women to suites at the same rate – problem solved!
NOTE: To keep cost down for the women, the women’s ministry budget footed the bill for the hotel rooms provided the women were willing to sleep four to a room (It is for just one night!). If they wanted less than four women to their room, they had to pay a little extra. Some of my women’s ministry team leaders were a little apprehensive about using tithed money (which supplies our budget) for hotel rooms. When I explained that for a retreat we pay for the speaker and the women pay for accommodations, and this is just flipped-flopped – they pay for their ticket to hear the speaker while we pay for their room, they were agreeable. Looking back, we could have paid for the event tickets and let our attendees pay for accommodations, but it would have driven the cost up further for our women, and we did not want cost to be show-stopper for them.
Let’s talk food.
For a get-away you will typically leave on a Friday and come back on a Saturday. Both times I chose a nearby chain restaurant to have dinner at before the event. Breakfast would be continental at the hotel, and lunch would be fast-food on the way home.
The first time we did this I called the chain a few times in the months and weeks leading up to the event, and they kept telling me it was not necessary since they did not take reservations. Still, I wanted them to know that 40 something women would be showing up at a specific time. This last time I chose the same restaurant chain (different town); however, I decided not to call ahead since I had been so discouraged from doing so last time. That was a mistake. Had this restaurant known we were coming, they would have had a couple of their servers come in an hour earlier, which would have made a big difference for everyone. Next time I will call ahead whether they like it or not, and hopefully, they will plan accordingly.
NOTE: Use dinner time as a good mixer. I pared down the menu to only about 6 choices for the ladies to choose from. They are then seated together according to their menu selection. This is a great way to get women to sit and talk with other women they may have not otherwise met. They love this by the way. This plan also helps expedite service time in the restaurant. All the women have the salad bar sit together and those ordering the chicken dish sit together, etc. It cuts order time down, and makes it so much easier for the restaurant servers.
Here are some other things to do to make your get-away a success:
1. Group Picture. For whatever reason, we did not take a good one this year, but did our first year. Our event was close to the Papa John’s headquarters in Louisville, which had these lovely waterfalls. We couldn’t resist taking our picture there.
2. Snacks and Miscellany. I prepared a large tote of snacks for the women to enjoy on the way and at night time. I also added practical things to the tote like a pack of cheap tooth brushes, travel tooth paste, deodorant, small first-aid kit. Someone always forgets something (like me – I forgot my deodorant! Good thing we had that tote!). I also recommend taking plenty of bottled water for everyone.
3. Travel Time. One other thing that I did not properly plan for on this latest trip was mapping out the proper amount of time to get to our destination. I failed to add in time for restroom stops and a nursing mom. We ended up only needing one stop, but the baby took a good 20 minutes to nurse. I should have thought about this! So, despite the fact that I had factored in an extra hour, every minute of it was consumed by my missteps of the hotel room fiasco, restaurant debacle and baby needs. We pulled up to drop the women off at the church just as the event was starting.
Despite the snafus, everyone had a great time. Even though we were almost late, we got great seats in the balcony, which turned out perfect for the worship concert. And, you know, we women have a good time typically despite those mishaps because we really like being together and away from our normal wife/mom schedule every once and a while.
Another funny side note about those hotel suites we got – they were very bizarre. There was an octagon-shaped cut out in the shower which was open to the bedroom area, so you could be sitting on the bed and see the person in the shower if the shower curtain was not closed. I’ve never seen anything like this! Just more stuff to laugh about.
If you are thinking about planning a get-away for your women, you may want to create a comprehensive brochure with all of the details. I am providing a link below to mine. It covered every aspect of our trip (event info, schedule, dinner menu, hotel info and approximate dollars required). I folded them in half length-wise and made them available at our women’s ministry information booth.
Here is a copy of our get-away information card: Open Doors Info Cards church
If you cannot open it, I can email you. Just let me know in the comments section.
If you do choose to do a get-away, I hope I’ve provided you with some good ideas and lessons learned from my mistakes. Have fun!
Do you have some neat ladies get-away ideas???
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Award-winning Author Gina Duke is a wife, mom and Director of Women’s Ministry at her local church. With a B.S. in Organizational Leadership, she is able to bring a clear word for authentic Christian living. Through her book, “Organizing Your Prayer Closet: A New and Life-Changing Way to Pray” (Abingdon Press), she imparts 1 Peter 4:7 with the gift of structured prayer journaling. If you would like to schedule Gina to speak on prayer or host a prayer journaling workshop, click here for more information. You may also follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TheGinaDuke.
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