When planning, consider the wisdom of Isaiah 55:2: "Why do you spend money for that which is not bread and your earnings for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me and eat what is good and let yourself delight itself in the profuseness of spiritual joy."
Think of the "bread" as the literal food your guests will eat and the housing in which they will stay. The "satisfaction" would encompass the five retreat essentials:
- Meaningful interaction
- Structured fun
The remaining cost would be publicity.
If you can, create an excel budget worksheet including the critical components of:
- Program (includes speaker)
Projecting wisely is important: The last thing you need is to sponsor a retreat and end up hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars in the hole. If you find a retreat facility whose price includes food and lodging, just add $25 or $35 per person and cover all the other expenses with that money. Budget enough so you can live within your budget.
When we put together the exhaustive resource, Retreats Made Easy, we included an interactive budget worksheet. As you work through the handbook, you estimate how much each component of your retreat will cost and enter that into the worksheet. You then enter your estimated number of guests to determine the ticket price that you'd have to charge if you included all of those components. From there, you add or subtract expenses until your ticket price matches your audience's ability to pay.
After you run your budget estimates, if the needs of your group and their available finances don't jive, ask your church to sponsor a love offering, or host fundraisers to make up the difference.
Every group handles retreat budgeting details differently:
- Some groups pay the way of their committee members. If possible, this is a really nice idea, but not a necessity.
- When the retreat speaker is from the host church, she typically donates her services, although most churches pay her expenses. If your group brings in a guest speaker, it is important that you pay her for her time and all of her expenses, including travel. While most groups budget $5-12 per attendee for this, I saw one group who made the speaker their #1 budget item: Tagging $40 per person (about 30% of the entire retreat fee) for the speaker.
- Some groups hire in a worship leader or band; many recruit talented women from their own church to volunteer.
- Most churches are willing to donate the use of their copy machine for retreat publicity and notebooks, if asked.
- Many retreat centers will give a financial break to church groups, if asked.
However you decide to proceed, and whatever services you can get for free or at reduced rates, the bottom line is that you want your income to cover your expenses. Figure it out carefully in advance and then to live within your budget.
Marnie Swedberg is the author of Retreats Made Easy: A comprehensive guide providing step-by-step instructions so you can set and accomplish your goals, enjoy the process, and get rave reviews all in less time and with less stress than you would think possible.