By Cyndee Ownbey
The coronavirus has impacted retreat plans for every women’s ministry leader I know. Thankfully, instead of canceling or postponing, leaders are moving forward with hybrid retreats—offering simultaneous in-person and online options for their women.
Whether your women watch from the comfort of their home, gather in smaller groups in homes, or social distance in the church sanctuary, they are looking forward to this year’s retreat. Women long for time in the Word and fellowship with sisters in Christ, and what better way to start the year?
While safety has always been a concern for retreat planning teams, this year teams are having to adapt to new safety concerns and issues. Every woman who chooses to attend in person will want to know that steps have been taken to create as safe a retreat as possible.
Here are 10 ideas to ensure a safe retreat for your women:
- Strategically place hand sanitizer throughout the retreat location.
- Ensure that common areas are sanitized frequently and thoroughly.
- If masks are mandated in your area, ask that all attendees abide by local mask policies. If they are not mandated, make it known that masks are still welcome.
- Increase spacing between seats—consider using round tables with fewer chairs than usual.
- Prepackage all of your retreat materials to ensure that every woman has her own pen, workbook, snacks, water bottle, etc.
- Instead of self-service buffets, minimize food handling by having boxed meals or having masked, gloved servers plate the food. Instead of water stations with dispensers or snack trays with cookies, opt for water bottles and prepackaged snacks between sessions.
- Offer watch-party options in homes if gathering as a large group is not possible.
- Consider a retreat-at-home using your church campus, so women can sleep at home in their own beds instead of navigating shared sleeping spaces and trying to fulfill requests for single rooms.
- Encourage social distancing whenever possible. You may need to split your group into two shifts for meals.
- Provide colored buttons, lanyard cords or wristbands that signal each woman’s interaction preferences: Green is for those who welcome conversations and physical contact. Yellow is for those who are open to conversation without contact. Red is for those who prefer no contact at this time.
Your women want to come, but many are waiting to hear how your team will be making this year’s retreat safe for them to attend. Be sure to communicate the precautions your team is taking so women can make informed decisions about attending.
May God bless the plans for your retreat, and may every woman feel safe and welcome!
Guest post by Cyndee Ownbey, founder of Women’s Ministry Toolbox and author of Rethinking Women’s Ministry: Biblical, Practical Tools for Cultivating a Flourishing Community.