Finding a Location
Retreat centers have distinct advantages for this program. Meals and refreshments are provided for you; dishes and clean-up are taken care of; meeting rooms that are apart from living and dining arrangements are provided; social spaces are available; comfortable sleeping spaces are available as singles or to be shared; break-out spaces are usually available for small groups to work in. In a retreat setting where participants stay overnight, a group quickly develops opportunities for building trust and intimacy that are peculiar to an "away from home" environment. While some retreat centers are upscale, most are accessibly or even modestly priced. Some offer historic charm, special amenities available to guests, or a spectacularly beautiful setting. Some require a certain amount of travel while others may be closer to your location.
Begin your selection process by deciding how far it is feasible to travel, what kind of a setting you are seeking, what price range is appropriate for your group, and what kind of living arrangements you prefer. Find out if meals are provided on site, because dining out will literally eat into the time the group needs to accomplish its work. Ask people, including your congregational or district staff members, for suggestions. Search online; most good retreat centers have informative, attractive websites. Make phone calls to narrow your selection to the most suitable options.
Make arrangements to check things out in person before you commit. See if you can have a meal there and tour the facilities and grounds. Find out if a retreat center staff member will be working with you to ensure that your experience will be pleasant and fulfilling. Prepare for your visit with information for the staff about your group and its needs and any questions you have. Pay attention to accessibility issues for those who have obvious or not so obvious needs for accessible accommodations; use these questions:
- Is the site easily navigated by those with mobility impairments?
- Is seating comfortable and plentiful? Are there tables to write on?
- Are there quiet spaces available for break-out groups?
- Is there a microphone available for participants' use?
- Is the site reachable by public transportation or by shuttle? If not, are you willing to help arrange carpools?
- Are there bathrooms attached to bedrooms?
- Are there single or double rooms, as opposed to dormitories?
- What food choices are available? Can they accommodate vegans, vegetarians, and people with food allergies?