Re-Mix:The Key Ingredients for Incredible Women’s Events

I originally wrote this post in early 2011, not much re-mix needed here….women people still need the same things to stay engaged.  In the past couple of years, lots of churches have gone to using DVD materials to lead retreats…this is not necessarily a bad thing (well maybe for me it is- I do feel that pinch!) but we still need to build in time to move, to fellowship and to be alone with God…and no, the five minutes the DVD gives you to write your answers in the $10 workbook you bought from Lifeway does not work on any of those counts. Remember, just cause you are using a boxed curriculum, doesn’t mean that you are suddenly off the hook when it comes to making sure that your attendees have gotten the message.  *ahem* Stepping down from the soap box now :)…here’s the post:

As a speaker, I am often called on for advice in planning women’s events. I hear over and over again how different and fun Strings Attached events are, but what makes them so different?  I think that there are a several key ingredients to an incredible women’s event.  Keep these in mind while you are planning and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Always create moments to connect with each other and engage everyone’s learning method.

An incredible women’s event is centered on building relationships (with God and with others).  I know, I know, relationships are kind of a big deal here at Strings Attached, but this because all women are relational.  They want to interact with each other.  Many women’s conferences try to shove so many special features into the day that they don’t leave time for forging connections.  As a team-building coach, this is my forte – bringing games and exercises that invite connection and sharing of story.  Plan times for connection, for mingling, for fun. Laughter is a great unifier.

Even the most engaging speaker will lose your audience after 45 min.

People should never be talked AT for more than 45 minutes.  This is a difficult one, especially if you are using an inexperienced speaker or a DVD program.  I always think back to my school days.  When sitting in a class, no matter how interesting I found the subject material, my ability to concentrate and assimilate would wane at about the 40 minute mark.  This is true for the women who are attending your event as well.  Incorporate experiential games and mixers to help the message stick, object lessons to bring real world metaphors to life, and time to reflect and absorb the information. Get the women up and moving, get them talking, help them form bonds and connections.

Every lesson should be applicable and give “real world” ways for incorporating it into life.

Remember, that the speaker’s story or curriculum needs to be applicable.  This gets left out most often when using lay speakers or women who haven’t yet learned to craft their talks.  (Sheila Wray Gregoire provides some great instruction on honing your message on her website Becoming a Christian Women’s Speaker.) Every presentation should have a way to apply it to everyday life.  There needs to always be a “Why” and  a “How”. Choose a retreat and speaker that challenges women to grow personally and wear the message home.

All women do not learn the same way.  Incorporate activities that provide a variety of learning methods.  In Strings Attached Retreats, you always find auditory (music/speaking), visual (object lessons and games), and kinesthetic (games that require movement and touch).  It’s not difficult to build these into your event, but it does take some thought and practice to get the timing right.  Many games and exercises cover all of the learning modalities.  We will be posting more about how to build this into your event in the coming weeks.

Leave time for reflection at the end of the day.

Reflection, reflection, reflection. In our harried world, in our frantic lives, we very rarely give ourselves time for reflection.  These women who have chosen to share their most valued resource—their time—with you, need time to reflect and connect with God. I attended Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating retreat in Colorado last year (if you haven’t been or haven’t read the book by the same title- you should!). Many things touched me—the speaker, the worship time, the food :), but the most profound moments came during what they called “Covenants of Silence.” It was during these times of reflection that the message of the weekend, the message God had brought me there to hear really soaked in. So many times during a women’s conference, we get so excited that we cram full our day or our event with programming. Leave some time and space for quiet reflection.

So there you go, “Cari’s Special Recipe” for a fantastic women’s event.  I am booking dates for the spring and fall of 2013 now if you would like Strings Attached Ministries to come to your group. We have packages available for any budget. We’d love to be a part of making your event spectacular. You can contact us here.

However, if you are a do-it-yourself-er, I will posting more tips on how to create this on your own. Until then, if you have questions  feel free to put them in the comments or send us an email at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

Photo credit: Laura Keck. All photos were taken at Hayward Wesleyan Church during 
"Vital Pieces: You are Signifcant to God's Plan." If you would like to order a copy 
of this presentation on CD, click here.

#Small Town 2012: So Much More than a Conference

On Stage at #Small Town 2012
Photo by #140conf on Instagram

Two weeks ago a traveled to the middle of Kansas to talk about covenant relationships.  This, in and of itself, is not a new thing, but the format and the experience were a whole new world.

Earlier this year, I was selected as a speaker for a State of Now/#140 Conference called Small Town 2012 in Hutchinson, Kansas.  This ‘twitter’ conference is an interesting event that brought together speakers from all of the country to speak about the effect of social media on small town America.

From the website:  

The State of Now (#140conf) events provide a platform for the worldwide online community to:      listen, connect, share and engage with each other, while collectively exploring the effects of the emerging real-time internet on business. It creates serendipity in talking to each other, sharing ideas across industries, and exchanging thoughts with people like you and not like you. To put it in rural terms, we’re going to cross-pollinate some ideas. Or think of it as hybrid vigor: your new ideas are much stronger than the ideas that brought them about.

Ummmm..yeah, so not my usual women’s banquet.

And quite honestly, the moment I received my acceptance letter from the event coordinator, Becky McCray, I began struggling with where I would fit in this conference. After all, this is about small towns…and while I technically live in a town with 5,000 people- it’s really more of a suburb of a larger area.  I don’t live on a farm, I’m 4 miles to the nearest mall, I can walk to the nearest Wal-Mart…and a load of other reasons paraded through my brain as to why I didn’t think I would have anything in common with the folks I would find there.

Oh, and did I mention, each speaker only has 10 minutes?  Yeah, you know this is an unfathomable request to ask me to get to the point in that amount of time.

So for weeks I mulled over what to say…and in the end, I came back to the core message of Strings Attached…covenant relationships are about how YOU interact with the people in your life….online and off.

So I packed up my bags and headed to Hutchinson.  When I arrived, I was excited to learn that the receptions and get-togethers planned were in awesome venues like the Kansas Underground Salt Museum and the Cosmosphere.  I met super cool people- veterans of this conference who’ve come year after year, who settled my nerves, and, by telling me their stories, held open a space for this newcomer to fit in (Thank you Dennis,Simon, Patsy and Gigi). And on the day of the conference, I got to see real, open hearts. People who, yes, spoke about how social media had changed their lives, but not with numbers and anecdotes, but with stories about fires raging through their hometown and family illnesses and droughts that nearly bankrupted a family(Thank you Dave, Lanna and Carrie).

The stories were amazing, but the people knocked my socks off. For that I am grateful that I ignored all the voices telling me how different I was, and let me see how common our human experiences can be.  I’m grateful for the friendships that were forged and new partnerships that are budding from this event. (Thanks, Angela and Melissa for the great talks). And I’m grateful for the opportunity to share a message that might be a little outside the box for a conference like this, but that was certainly well received and honored (thanks again, Becky, for the opportunity).

I hope to return next year, but until then, why don’t you take 10 minutes and check out my talk?  Or if you have a little longer, watch through the rest of the videos.

 

Captivating Heart was awesome!

 

 

There were 31 of us….women from all walks of life….beautiful women who came for rest…who came for restoration…who came for redemption.

And after a year of planning and  and working….the weekend was amazing!

 

We had adventure..

We had friendship….Join us for the rest at www.captivatingheart.com

NWA Motherlode features Captivating Heart!

We’ve just returned from our leadership retreat out at New Life Ranch in preparation for Captivating Heart! What an amazing place! We cannot wait for you to join us out there! 

Can you believe Captivating Heart is only a month away?  Crazy how fast this year has gone…

So on the eve of the end of early bird registration, NWA Motherlode has featured Captivating Heart in an interview….why don’t you check it out?

 

How often do you really take time to refresh your spirit and renew your mind? If that sentence makes you sigh, you might enjoy a retreat coming up the first weekend in October called Captivating Heart. It’s going to be held at the awesome New Life Ranch just outside of NWA in Colcord, Oklahoma.

In fact, this event sounds amazing…read the rest of the article here

A Party in the Garden

Oh! It was beautiful!

Photo by Beckey Mwaba

The day…the garden…the tea cups….

Simply a beautiful, elegant Saturday morning.

We had lovely entertainment:

Aren’t they sweet? “I’m a Little Teapot!”

We had lessons on the proper way to “take tea.” The most important? “Always speak with kindness.”  I think we will add tea to our daily routine just for that.

Carried Away Crafts gave us these divine bath fizzies for each of our guests.

We had wonderful give-aways and gallant young men to serve us. We had sweet  babies and beautiful music….and cupcakes…did I mention we had cupcakes?

But the most breathtaking thing of the whole beautiful garden party? The most captivating thing….was all of these beautiful women…women in their finery and sundresses….women in their fancy hats and tiaras….women in their Captivating Hearts.  They were stunning each one.

On Saturday, June 9, we had our first fundraiser for Captivating Heart.  We had a wonderful group of ladies in attendance.  We raised over 900 dollars! This will provide partial scholarships for several women!

 

Oh so many things to tell….

Where to begin….there are loads happening around here (with me…and with the ministry!)

So I will sum up the goings on!

First, Captivating Heart is coming to life!

Captivating Heart is a retreat ministry based on the bestselling book, Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge.  Captivating is based on the message that there are core desires of woman’s heart- to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to be the beauty of the story- and that unlocking and understanding these desires are the secret to the feminine heart.  The core message of Captivating is this:

Your heart matters more than anything else in all creation.  The desires that you had as a little girl and the longings you still feel as a woman are telling you of the life God created you to live.  ~ Captivating

I have felt a strong desire for several years to bring this message to my community in a way that is affordable and accessible to women locally, so a team of twelve other faithful ladies and I have been working diligently to provide just that…and it’s coming together! I am so excited! AND I so want you to join us!  There are tons of ways to register:

1) You can go to the events page and click on the “register now” button under Captivating Heart…

or

2) Check out our online home at www.captivatingheart.com.  You can find out all the information and register right there online! Special shout out to Madwire Media for donating design hours to create our site!

We’re hosting our first fundraising event!

To raise funds for Captivating Heart and provide scholarships to those who could not otherwise afford the retreat we are hosting a Garden Party on June 9 from 10-12.  We would love for ya’ll to come out….you can purchase your ticket to attend and find out more about the event here:

http://captivatinghearttea.eventbrite.com/

Fundraising has begun in earnest! 

So if you can’t make our awesome ladies tea (I’m super excited to wear my new garden hat!) and you want to donate to our cause (please, please, please consider it!) then, we have a way for you to do that as well through our totally secure fundly site…We’d love to partner with you to help make this happen!

http://fundly.com/s/captivatingheart

Hmmmm…I think that those are all the exciting updates I can think of right now, but the truth is I’m super tired and I need to rest up for a brain scan tomorrow….beauty sleep for pictures, you know? (beneath this false bravado is a girl secretly asking for your prayers…I really detest having someone inject radioactive dye into my head, strap my head into a cage and stick me into a really noisy, very tight-quartered tunnel.) Thank you so much in advance for your prayers and love! Hopefully, I will have more to share this weekend!

Grace and Peace,

CK

The Sound of Silence: In Love Again

I am sharing a few of my journal entries from a three day silent directed retreat held by Christview Ministries at Little Portion Retreat Center in Eureka Springs, Arkansas April 13-15, 2012.  

4/15/12

Everything seems so sensual this morning.

I slept fitfully last night and finally about3:30 am prayed that God would help me sleep.  I dreamed of running through soft grass and swimming naked crystal clear hot springs with the water wrapping around my body.

I awoke and performed my morning yoga. I think that will become a routine again and I felt blood flow and course and my body hummed happy like a well-oiled machine.

The sky is hazy- not gray specifically, but the haziness that comes with humidity and soon-coming rain. The kind of haze that makes colors shout out their names and reminds you of the beach in midwinter.

Even breakfast caressed the senses this morning. Still simple fare, no gourmet chefs here these monks,  but simple food from God’s bounty prepared with love and care.  This morning we ate scrambled eggs and biscuits with link sausage from a package and I nearly did a cartwheel when the monk rang the bell for breakfast.

A smile, bright like joy itself, sprang to my lips when this man and woman spooned up God’s nourishment and I desperately wanted to bubble out “Thank you” but we are still giving each other the gift of silence and I have a breakfast date with Jesus so my smile like joy will have to do and I bound away happy.

I pour a glass of water flavored with lemons and oranges. I taste the slick spring water and it leaps to life on my tongue. Bright notes of floral and citrus play together and maybe a little mint and my heart sings because I am in love again….with this water, with this place, but especially with the Maker of it all.

I linger over breakfast. The smooth blanket of biscuit with fresh butter and strawberry jam, eggs scrambled just right- still soft and so warm. I salt the fruit to taste its flavors and they pop and kiss and mingle together in my mouth and my heart sings happy because I am in love again.

After breakfast, I head out to the place God prepared to do our last Lectio Divina. I’ve saved a verse about battle (2 Chronicles20:15-17) for last, for the time before I return to the real world.

For a moment, I feel fear and doubt rush in.  There is no Absolam here. There has been a caterpillar to greet me along every steo of my journey there sort of as a guide to confirm my steps are his will.

 

“Oh, but I am here.”

I look down and there is a brown and black caterpillar I’ve looked for and found everywhere along the way crawling up my pant’s leg. I wonder silently how long he’s been there.

“All along,” comes a chuckle from God, “all along.”

So I sit and pray and open my Bible to appropriate passage and begin to dig in with God.

I expect words like “Fight the good fight.” And “Go tell the nations.” But instead, Jesus lets  me off the hook. He took down the chore list from the refrigerator. You know the one with:

20 min of quiet time

20 min Bible study

Evangelize

Make Converts

Invite people to church

You know that list? The one that straps me into to “doing” everyday and fills me with shame at my failure every night? Jesus gently takes it off the fridge and crumples it and throws it in the trash.

“The battle is not yours, but God’s,” He says. “Stand firm, hold your position and watch the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.”

I stutter denials and  but, buts.. and he says:

“I’ve given you a story. Tell yours and they will hear Mine.  Love. Go in peace and stand firm.”

And then we sit for an hour and talk about fear-

Of doing too much.

Of doing too little.

Of letting go of fear itself.

Jesus says “Trust me.”

“You make it sound so simple,” I say.

He chuckles, “Simple is not always easy, Cari.”

He doesn’t always sound like my Dad, but today he does and I love him even more for it.

So, OK…Practice trust. Simply trust.

And then Jesus blows my mind-

“Listen. You are doing the right thing. There is no right or wrong way to draw near to me. No twelve step formula to hear my voice. Just listen. Listen for me.”

I breathe deep his peace and look down. There in the leaves are two more Absolams. They raise up the front part of their bodies as if to speak to me or say “Hello.”

But I think perhaps they are saying, “Goodbye,Alice.  Until we meet again.”

15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them,and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 15-17