Although the process for creating retreat messages isn’t that different than creating a keynote (you can find all my best teaching for message development in Creating a Message that Connects), the setting does require some extra thought. Here are some areas to think through.
Consider the Schedule
I’ve found that a one-day event best allows you to share interlocking messages. For example, you may want to take a longer passage of Scripture and create multiple messages with one building on the other. Using individual messages as building-blocks works best at an out-of-town retreat–even if it’s multiple days–or a one-day in-town retreat. At these kinds of retreats/events, attendees general come to every session, so they don’t lose understanding with related messages.
Events held in-town on a Friday evening and Saturday can present a unique challenge. During these type of events registrants may attend one day or the other but not both.That means that people who miss sessions often also miss meaning. With this kind of schedule, I’ve learned to create each session’s message with “stand alone” content. Removing the overlap between messages means that attendees get the most from the sessions they attend even if they can’t be present at all of them.
Consider the Energy Levels
People are tired on Friday evenings. Women have generally worked hard to finish work and/or settle a family before they head to the event, so they can only absorb so much. I try to keep the audience’s needs in mind by:
- Including humor
- Keeping the content a little lighter
- Cutting my time a bit (As my husband’s preacher grandfather used to say, “The mind can only absorb what the butt can endure.”)
- Adding an interactive element
Consider Your Style
If you’re doing three sessions, I’d say each one needs to fit into one of these general categories:
- Connecting– This is the session when the audience needs to connect strongly with you and feel the need for the topic you’re covering
- Activating– This session is heaviest on the practical “how to” of the weekend. Every session should contain some of this, but one will probably be predominate.
- Inspiring– This session is the “want to” so that people go home and are inspired to change
Your style will determine the order of these three. One of my friends who is a highly practical, how to do anything in 10 steps kind of speaker always ends with the activating session. She wants them to remember what to do.
I usually end with the inspiring session. I definitely give application, but I’m a story-teller who wants to give a few things to do with high motivation.
If you’ve lead retreats, share with us! What’s your best tip for developing messages for retreats?