My Retreat Back Out Confession

retreat news Mar 21, 2019

Since 2005, I've been promoting and encouraging women (sorry guys!) to go to retreats.  It's been my passion and mission for a long time.  But, I need to make a confession.  Recently, I backed out of a retreat commitment.  Yes, I did...I cancelled, withdrew, bailed out, or whatever you want to call it, and it bothered me.  Honestly, I feel like a hypocrite.  Why did I do what I tell so many others not to do?  Well, I thought I'd share the story in an attempt to give some insight and inspiration.

I was at church one Sunday in January.  I've never regularly attended church, but this past year, I was introduced to a church that has made a positive impact on my life as well as my family.  

In the church service, it was announced that the Inspire Women's Retreat was on March 2nd, and all ladies were welcome to sign up.  It sounded fun, but I'm fairly new to the church so I was hesitant to commit. 

About a week later, a friend of mine who is also the pastor's daughter sent me a text asking "Interested in coming to this?" with a link to the Inspire Women's Retreat.  

I clicked into the link, and thought, yes, it would be very inspirational.  The retreat was also the same weekend as my (50th) birthday, but we didn't have plans so I thought, what the heck, I'm in!  I signed up at guest central the next time I was at Church.

The following week, I got an email, and here's what it said:

Subject: Fwd: Payment Needed - Inspire Retreat
Hi Kirsten,

I have your signed up for 1 ticket for the Inspire Retreat.  I'm following up about your payment.

Could you confirm that you still want a ticket? If yes, will you be at church this Sunday?  Can you write a check?

Reading this, my insecurities showed up, and these negative thoughts entered my mind. 
Do they not want me to go? 
Do they think I can't pay?  I didn't see where to pay when I signed up.
I don't go to church every that a problem?

I just couldn't get past these gremlins, so after thinking about it for a while, I replied:
Thanks for reaching out!  I won't be able to make it as planned due to another commitment.

I felt bad in a lot of ways.  I felt bad for signing up and then backing out.  I felt bad because I didn't think they wanted me to go.  I felt bad saying I had another commitment when I really didn't.

When the day of the retreat came, I still had guilt lingering about backing out.  My family did make plans for that same day which was an ice fishing excursion with some friends (that's a hunter's wife's life for ya!).  The day actually didn't start out so well, and I wondered if I would have been better off attending the retreat.  Was my bad day punishment for backing out?

Well, the day did get better, and I had a lot of fun ice fishing.  While I was sitting in the ice tent with my son, it occurred to me.  I could take this experience and use it as an example to help others who coordinate retreats.  You see, a retreat is a complete experience from the very beginning to the end and even longer.  Looking back, had I received this email:
Hi Kirsten,

Thank you so much for signing up for the Women's Inspire Retreat!  It will be an amazing event, and we are excited you are coming with us.  Please bring your payment of $40 to Church by this Sunday.

I would have payed by the due date and attended the retreat, no questions, no insecurities, no regrets. 

So, in hindsight, if you are planning a retreat with a group or if you have a retreat business, here are some simple tips that can make the entire experience enjoyable for all.

1) Be excited about the retreat, always - e.g. The retreat is going to be a blast!
2) Be excited your friend, family member, or guest is attending -  We are so happy you are coming! 
2) Don't give anyone an "out" ever - e.g. Do you still want to go?
3) Be direct on the payment - e.g. Payment is due to me by...

In the Retreat Business Academy program, I devote a whole module on the entire guest experience from the start, to the end, and following the retreat.  The experience is the heart of the retreat.  No one is perfect, but having a good process in place can really mean the difference for everyone involved.

Have you ever backed out of a retreat?  We would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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