Christian retreat centers are a perfect way for people to get back to basics and strengthen their relationship with God. If you have been called to start a Christian retreat center, there are a number of different things to consider. From location and advertising to a business plan and franchise options, careful consideration needs to go into this business decision.
Visit Christian retreat centers that are already prospering. Consider visiting several in your area and in other places around the country. When you visit retreat centers in other states, talk with the owners and managers about why they believe their centers are so successful. As long as the retreat center owners do not see you as direct competition, they will likely be willing to share best practices, trends and successful marketing strategies.
Scout your location. Start by looking for an abandoned retreat center near where you would like to be based. If you choose a center that already has cabins, conference areas and a kitchen, you will not need to invest a lot of money in building. In fact, you may only need to do a little maintenance to make it usable. If you cannot find an acceptable retreat center, look at bed and breakfasts, hotels or open plots of land. Try to find a location that is rural, but still accessible to an urban area.
Consider what services you will offer. Will the camp cater to youth groups or adults or both? Will your center be open all year or will you close during the winter? Consider offering other services in addition to traditional retreat center services. Catering, special events, conferences and weekend getaways are good opportunities to earn additional money while you are waiting for word to spread about your retreat center.
Develop a mission statement. Decide why you are opening the retreat center and how you will help visitors strengthen their faith. The mission statement will guide your business and marketing plans.
Write a business plan that includes your goals and how you define success.
Create a marketing plan that includes creative advertising techniques. Consider how you will inform others of your retreat center -- will you rely on word of mouth or purchase ads? Will you use television and radio or rely on billboards and ads in Christian magazines?
Consider your local competition. Define which local businesses are your competition and whether there are any national businesses that you will compete against. Look at what these centers have to offer and find a way to differentiate yourself. Will you offer a ropes course that no one else has? Will you have a list of Christian speakers that will minister to your guests? Choose something that makes you stand out from the rest of the retreat centers near you.
Consider becoming part of a franchise. The name recognition of a national Christian retreat center may help you in the first few years of your business. Franchises come with many positive aspects -- name recognition for your guests -- but can also have negative aspects -- a lack of self-expression in your camp and services. Weigh both options carefully and choose the one that is best for your situation.
Call local churches and consider offering them a deal to bring parishioners or church leadership to experience your camp. Churches and Christian groups will make up the main component of your guests, so reach out to them and invite them to visit. If you cannot afford to give them a reduced rate, consider asking church leaders what they are looking for in a retreat center. This will give you a good base of information to influence what you offer at your center.
Consider offering theme retreats, including youth groups, family, leadership training, film, art, scripture or meditation. Find a way to put a unique Christian spin on each of these themes. Offer to help plan your retreat visitors' experience. When you first open the center, you are the person most familiar with your facilities and your guests will appreciate the added benefit of not having to worry about scheduling the retreat activities.
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