Give Your Club a Checkup Improve Club Health with a Retreat Are Lions clubs just like people? When it comes to staying healthy, Millard Lion David Wentworth of Omaha, Nebraska, thinks so. “You take your children to the doctor for regular checkups, and the same should go for young clubs so they can get off on the right foot,” says Wentworth, District 38-N Global Leadership Team coordinator. “As we age, it’s vital that we get checkups regularly, and older clubs need to do that too. Just because things seem to be running smoothly, there might still be underlying issues that could cause a club to die off.” Clubs can avoid a health scare by holding retreats, advises Wentworth, who has presented on the topic at the USA/Canada Lions Leadership Forum. Retreats provide dedicated time away from regular meetings to set goals, discuss new ideas and strengthen club bonds. Importantly, retreats give members a sometimes rare opportunity to provide input and voice concerns that, if left unaddressed, could mean leaving the Lions. “Too often we never ask our members how we are doing as a club and so we never find out that some are not happy,” says Wentworth. Plan for Success Before a great retreat can happen, thoughtful planning is required. Key logistics include setting goals, sending invitations, identifying a meeting site and arranging meals. Appoint a retreat coordinator to be responsible for expediting these arrangements and ensure a smooth experience. First on the to-do list is to encourage all members to attend. “You really need to get those Lions who are not attending meetings to come to the retreat. Their input may be most beneficial to the club,” explains Wentworth. Find a Facilitator To maximize productiveness and positive outcomes, invite a non-club member facilitator to lead the retreat. “A facilitator should be a good communicator and well-respected, and needs to keep the group on topic and encourage everyone to participate,” says Wentworth. An ideal facilitator will be unbiased, diplomatic and skilled at synthesizing ideas and maintaining a constructive atmosphere. Set the Agenda A well-organized, robust agenda will help make the most of the participant’s valuable time. A typical retreat might include a team building activity, in-depth large and small group discussion of both what is and is not working well, prioritizing goals and creating an action plan. It also might prove rewarding to allow for some less structured time, as the Manassas Lioness Lions in Virginia do at their annual retreats. “We have an agenda, but we don’t follow the protocol of a regular meeting. So we have much more freedom to just discuss ideas. We also allow time for questions on specifics of our service projects, which has been helpful for our newer members,” says Anna Marie Robinson. Reap the Rewards After a fruitful retreat, Lions will bring with them feelings of pride, growth and unity, along with practical next steps to make their club the best it can be. “We gain new ideas and a better understanding of what it takes to be a Lion and a leader,” says Robinson. But for a retreat to truly be successful, all must participate honestly and openly, Wentworth stresses. “A retreat is a safe place to voice your concerns and share new ideas that you might have been afraid to bring up at a club meeting. Don’t fear the process.” –Jennifer Gilbert Gebhardt
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