How many companies, organizations, or teams do you know that GIVE away all of their trademarked and classified secrets? Well, since Ironman Outdoors is a ministry and our goal is to build God's Kingdom (not ours), we give away all of our secrets.
Our top pro staffers have put their heads together and come up with this list of 10 commandments for Effective Retreats! Use them on your next retreat; violate them at your own peril.
1. Manage Expectations
a. Before a retreat is advertised we research every aspect of the location. We want to let folks know before they come on this retreat that they will sleep in this kind of bed, use this kind of bathroom, and sit in this kind of tree stand. All of this is a part of managing their expectations. If they think they are sleeping in a 5 star lodge and all you've got is a 1 star barn, then we've got a problem.
2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
a. Once a person has booked the retreat, we send them a very nice pdf brochure that explains everything about the retreat. Here's how to purchase your license and here's our suggested packing list. This is the address and here's the agenda. We even include pictures of what the place looks like. And most importantly, this email includes a prayer asking the guys to pray this prayer between now and the start of the retreat.
3. Get Off to a Good Start
a. From the time they arrive at the retreat, you need to make them feel "like one of the guys." Even though you have never met them, learn their names quickly and start the joking that men love. This type of fellowship and camaraderie will go a long ways during the manhood discussions!
4. Thou Shalt Text
a. Text messaging has become the preferred method of tree stand communication! Almost 100% of the men who show up on retreats bring a smart phone with them. Therefore, the retreat leader needs to ask for every man's cell phone number at the beginning of the retreat. You need this for safety reasons, but also to use it for spiritual reasons. Then, form a "group" and send them a text message each time they sit in the stand. For example, if we are going to discuss "Godly Fathers" tonight, I will send a text message to the guys in the tree stands that afternoon that introduces the topic (Great Families Don't Happen by Accident) and asks them to think about 1 good thing and not so good thing you learned from your father. This will allow everyone to be prepared and ready to talk in the manhood discussion.
5. Divide and Conquer
a. Running a good retreat is hard work! One man simply cannot do it by himself! Ideally, you need one pro staffer in charge of the hunting, one pro staffer in charge of the food, and one pro staffer to lead the manhood discussions. All of this can be rotated among the pro staffers, but this is too much for any one person to handle! Pro Staffers will be the first ones up in the morning and the last ones to go to sleep in the evening!
6. Budget Accordingly
a. Anticipate all of the retreat costs that you will have. Gas, groceries, corn, new ground blinds, t shirts, etc. All of these things add up. If you have 10 spots on a retreat, you need to plan financially for only 7 guys. In other words, set up your budget so that as long as the retreat is 70% full you will cover all of your expenses. Literally, one or two empty spots will blow a retreat budget!
7. Somebody's Gotta Do It
a. Frequently on a retreat, somebody has to stay behind and cook the potatoes, do the dishes, or make a last minute run for more groceries or deer corn! That person should always be the pro staffer. There's a reason that you got to come for free or reduced price. We always need a pro staffer who is willing to jump in and get something done so that the overall retreat goes smoothly.
8. Picture = 1,000 Words
a. Good pictures and even videos memorialize the retreat on the Ironman webpage. For some men, this is going to be a life-changing weekend. Let's take good quality photos so that when they look back on the weekend they spent with Ironman Outdoors they will have lots of good things to say to their friends. No pics of bloody deer on the back of a tailgate. Take the time to pose a good picture!
9. Take Off Your CAMO
a. You cannot expect the guys on the retreat to take off their camo if you don't take off yours! As a pro staffer, you must make yourself vulnerable. Nobody has it all figured out and your marriage and family are not perfect either. The guys on the retreat need to see that you are normal guy just like them. They need to know about things you struggle with. The manhood discussions will only go as deep as you go.
a. Pray before the retreat for each man who is going to attend by name. Email out some of your prayers in the correspondence you have with the men before the retreat. Open the retreat with prayer and let these guys know that we don't think it's any accident that they are on this retreat. Pray before each meal and before each hunt. Encourage the men to pray with their wives when they get home! At the close of the retreat, have a final prayer and as the pro staffer, you should pray out loud by name for each of the men on the retreat! You should know them well enough at the end of the retreat to be able to pray for something going on in their life!