Secular businesses as well as Christian churches have discovered the power of Away-Days. For churches these are great ways to develop team spirit,or to develop strategies, or to introduce new projects, and all why enriching the fellowship between members of your congregation.
For smaller churches it is possible to involve the whole of your congregation. In larger churches that might prove difficult unless you are able to use breakout rooms for focus groups.
Here are some basic tips:
When Choose a day and a date when most if not all the people you want to attend are free. For many churches that will mean using the weekend. Some churches have used Sundays by closing down their regular services for the day.
Location. While you could use your own premises (and save money) there is a lot to be said for taking people out of their usual environment as it often frees up the imagination. Choose somewhere that will not involve a lot of travelling. Getting there must be easy and parking is important too.
Venue. Sometimes it is possible to find a friendly church that has good facilities and will be happy to host you. Retreat centres and conference centres are good venues, usually designed for such occasions. But these often get booked up well ahead of time.
It is well worth considering some hotels, such as Travellodge, Days Inn,or Premier,for example. Some of these do most of their business from secular business people on the move through the week, and have space at weekends. Some are already equipped with meetin rooms, creches, audio-visual resources, etc. You can also gain the benefit of their catering services for lunch and people can also use it for a weekend break.
The venue should be warm and comfortable. No hard chairs. There needs to be an adequate kitchen for teas, coffees and lunch. Check out the toilet facilities. You will need one general meeting room for the plenaries and space for smaller discussion or focus groups.
Children: It is probable that some might need to bring children with them. In this case ensure that you have an appropriate room and ask another church to provide an appropriate team to plan their time. They should have DBS certificates and will need all kinds of equipment for the activities.
Food: People will want tea, coffee and luch. You might also want a little extra for a tea before departure. The food is an important part of the day so plan it well. You may have a church where people are used to bring and share lunches. In that case you could make use of that ability BUT ensure thatno one has to work in the kitchen when the sessions are being run. If that is a risk we advise making alternative arrangements for catering.
Time: It is unusual to be able to start before 10.00am and the day should not last longer than 4.00pm A typical schedule migh look like this:
10.00 welcome people with refreshments.
10.15 Worship time
10.30 Session One
11.30 Comfort break
11.45 Session Two
12.45 Break for lunch
13.30 Session Three (starts with recap)
14.30 Comfort break
14.45 Session Four
15.30 Closing Worship time
15.45 Tea and depart
Topic and Follow-UP. Ensure that you have an engaging and experienced leaders for these sessions. You may have competent people in your congregation but often a fresh voice is more effective. Prepare well and make sure any guest speakers are briefed about what you hope to get out of the day.
An Away-Day is part of a process and not an end in itself. So think ahead about how you will evaluate the day and what you will put in place to follow up and build on it.