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  • Writer's pictureSanta Barbara Camp

How to Build an Awesome Custom Retreat for Your Group

With over 80 years of camping experience, we have put together some helpful tips that are sure to make your next custom retreat a success!

Kids playing at the pool

The Basics

We know planning a retreat can be a lot of work, but we're here to help. Take a look at these three essential steps to help prepare your retreat.

These steps will help communicate your vision to our Guest Relations staff as they help coordinate all the necessary details to make your retreat successful.

Thoughtfully go through the steps, and by the end, you'll be ready to make a reservation with the confidence that your group will experience everything you hoped would take place.

Step One: The Big Picture

When it comes to planning your custom retreat, you have to start with the big picture. What is the purpose of the retreat, what do you want people to take away from their time, or what do you want your group to accomplish during the retreat?

Do you want to build group unity? Do you want a relaxing retreat for your people to recharge and reconnect with God? Or do you want a fun, activity-filled escape from daily life and routines where you can reach your group's non-believers with the gospel's message?

After you ask yourself these questions, take some time to think about your group’s demographics and all of the different personalities who will be attending. Will they want to take the time to relax and just hang out, or will they enjoy a regimented schedule with fun activities in between? Answering all of these questions as you are planning your retreat will help you know what you want to accomplish during the retreat. Once you know your purpose, you can move on to the next step!

Step Two: The Impact

A keyboard player leading a worship service

A major consideration will be the retreat's theme and curriculum.

This step takes some time to develop - but you can start with the basics:

  • What is the main “message” or takeaway of this retreat experience?

  • What is the primary goal you want all of your participants to meet?

  • How would you define success in terms of what your people walk away from the retreat with?

Once you figure out the retreat's theme, core curriculum, and central message, you can move on to the next steps.

Step Three: Logistics

Once you know your purpose for the retreat and the subject matter, you can plan your schedule.

When it comes to building your schedule, there are essential questions EVERY GROUP at Thousand Pines needs to consider:

  • How long is your event? Will you need overnight accommodation?

  • How many meals will your group need?

  • How often will you meet, and what size of meeting space does your group require?

  • What activities do you want to include?


If you plan your retreat to be an overnight event, consider the type of housing you’ll need.

A log cabin in the nestled in the woods is perfect for a peaceful retreat

TM Campings' properties offer a variety of accommodations for housing, from rustic tent-style camping to modest mid-grade cabin options. We also have Leadership Housing available for those VIPs you want to treat to a special room.


Even if your stay with us is only a few hours, you will most likely want to eat a meal. While you may make alternative arrangements, you can always enjoy a delicious meal with us!

Your package will likely include a few meals, depending on the length of your stay. Custom options are available, and with proper coordination with our Guest Relations staff, almost anything is possible!

Meeting Spaces

You’ll most likely be planning several meetings and/or breakout sessions for your group. For those, you will need meeting spaces. At Thousand Pines, we have several meeting spaces for you to choose from.

Every meeting space will be sure to meet the needs of your group. We have everything from large indoor meeting spaces, outdoor amphitheaters, and smaller meeting spaces!

Priority to the larger venues is based on the size of your group. Almost all of our meeting places can offer amplified sound and multimedia presentations.

Whether you need a large area for general sessions, smaller spaces for break-out times, or just a place to have a fire and some intimate conversation, we'll work to suit your needs.

A person climbing a rockwall


Once you get the fundamentals of your schedule down (Meeting times, Mealtimes, and Housing needs), you can start to plan activities.

Now is an excellent time to think about the demographics of your group and what activities would be the most fun for them. Maybe its rock climbing, team-building, or paintball!

Think about step one and what your group desires to experience the most, and then plan activities that work with the rest of your retreat as you put your group's schedule together.

Additional Details

After getting through all the steps provided and putting your basic schedule together, there are some final details you will want to consider.

Add Ons:

You may want to have communion or baptisms during your retreat. You can include options like these for spiritual exercises that add a special touch to your custom program.

Remember to consider the little details, such as drink stations, snacks between meals, special needs amenities, break-out rooms, health care facilities, and late-night activities.


At the end of the retreat, evaluating the retreat's success is a good idea, especially if you plan to do it again. Send out a survey, or have your participants answer questions about the retreat. What went well? What should change? This way, you can improve the retreat for the next time!

Planning an Effective Retreat With TM Camping

We desire to help make your custom retreat an extraordinary experience. One of our core values is to "Say 'Yes' Whenever Feasible." So go ahead, put us to the test. Start planning your custom retreat, and feel free to request whatever you need to make your retreat an incredible and memorable experience.

If you want a pre-planned retreat for your church, group, or family - check out our Programs at Thousand Pines, Tonto Rim, or Santa Barbara! Or maybe you're looking for an adventure and want to join us at Rock-N-Water for whitewater rafting! We offer camps and retreats for all ages!

Whatever the season is, there is something for everyone. We hope this planning guide has been helpful and that we will see you at your custom retreat or one of our program camps soon!

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