Retreat planning in Manitoba

Kevin Penner

Retreat planning in Manitoba
When it comes to retreat planning, alternating between structured activities and unstructured time can be very rewarding. True retreats always incorporating one or more forms of rest, but there is a wide berth on what counts as rest.

Retreat Planning in Manitoba is a topic familiar to myself for a myriad of time.  Starting in my late teens with my first youth retreat, now, decades later owning an 80,000sq ft retreat center.  Having help plan 1500+ retreats and family gatherings it is amazing how unique one retreat can be from the next.  But retreats do have a common theme.  They all gravitate to various forms of rest from outside distraction.  Rest for the mind, and often some rest for the body as well.

Putting this guide together the goal is to provide expert insight into what it takes to execute a truly great retreat.  The target in this condensed manual is to relay every important marker for retreat planning.

If you would like to host your own event: Making your event a reality

Planning a retreat for who?

A Ladies Retreat, Youth Group, Marriage Retreat maybe with your Church?  When you understand who will be attending you can become intentional about how to reach your audience with your main message.  Having a bunch of fun icebreakers may do well with a youth group.  Speaking the language of the group you are with may mean opening with a talk, a story, a slideshow or even a meal.  Knowing your people group and the expectations on how to best communicate is a good place to start.

Set the journey and destination

Retreat planning is all about the journey that you are inviting everyone into.  Where you want to take them is your target.  Consider creating one word that best describes it.  “Scrapbooking”, “Love” or “Hiking” are all valid theme words.  Brainstorm an outline once your word is decided.  Start with a broad view statement that encompasses ideas that will appeal to your majority.  The details of everything will follow after.  For now, you have a journey and you have direction.  Start with that.

Selecting your facility

You can hold retreats anywhere,  from a gym to a church. What you are looking for is a unique location that works for the number of people you estimate.  A good place to look for a change of scenery is using tools like Trip Advisor and search words “retreat”.

Finding a facility that has a minimum capacity of 50% more room than you need is a good place to start for small groups of 50 or under.  For a group larger than 50 people a margin of 25% larger is adequate.  You want elbow room within your meeting space because squeezing together for every session is not restful for North American cultures.  On the other hand, a place that is ginormous takes away the feeling of connection.

A big bonus when booking a complex that normally hosts group retreats is they offer meals combined with lodging for a package price.  Having someone else to look after your food services is a HUGE.  I can not overstate how much of a weight is lifted off your retreat planning organizers when professional food services people are looking after meals.  At more upscale venues,  fresh food services will offer vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free as well as food allergy options.  Having these extra food options will make it much easier to accommodate everyone in your group hassle free.

Example of group facilities.

Retreat planning starts with setting budgets

As you are organizing one of the early tasks is to calculate a budget.  To assist you with this task I have created for download a detailed Retreat Budget Spreadsheet.  Workshop resources, speaker honorariums, giveaways… there are more than 100 line entries in the spreadsheet provided.  A general rule of thumb is budgeting 15% to 20% extra to cover unexpected costs.  For small groups, you can sometimes get away with figuring out things to the penny.  Medium to large groups really needs to make sure to budget for the unexpected.

Going through the points in this article keep your spreadsheet close by.  Start entering estimates and confirmed pricing into the appropriate lines.

There are about 100 places to plug numbers in.  Spreadsheets help organize your retreat planning, are a great place to enter your deadline along with expected costs and actual expenses.  Once you talk with a few venues and catering companies you will start to have a lot of numbers that can be added.  If you have run events before, especially with the same venue, you can use that information in the forecasting area of the spreadsheet.

End of Part 1 of this post.  Part 2 will be posted shortly.

Wilderness edge amenities
Group of people

Large meeting rooms


143 guest rooms


Catered meals

Location pin

One hour from Winnipeg

Located in Pinawa, East Whiteshell Provincial Park


25+ outdoor activities

Rafting, canoe rentals, snow boarding, hiking trails, etc.


Team building

Rafting, canoe rentals, snow boarding, hiking trails, etc.

High tempurature

Hot tub

Spa / sauna


Parked car

Free Parking

Fire pit





Walking trails

Convenience store

Convenience store

Credit card

nearby ATM


Golf Course

Umbrella on a beach



Pickle ball

Tenis ball


Plan everything in one place

A super simple dashboard for you and your attendees

Pair of people

Easily share with anyone

Open book

Attendee self sign-up option


Special organizer pricing

Start planning now
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