In January or February every year, The Community Group meets on a Saturday to review and reflect on the past year’s events and accomplishments, and moments of insight. We begin the retreat as we do all our meetings and gatherings with a prayer, giving thanks for the blessings received and asking for strength and guidance as we go forward in service to our community.
During our planning retreat, we work both as a whole group and in smaller breakout groups. Doing so we find affords everyone the opportunity to speak, to listen and to be heard. We have no staff. We are all volunteers. Our chair, Penny Franklin, works with board member and facilitator, Andy Morikawa, to prepare the planning retreat agenda.
This is analog planning at its low tech best.
Basically, we review the year by brainstorming events, activities, accomplishments, projects and programs that that stand out for us. We locate each of these on a twelve month calendar. We sum up the year and give the year a name that captures the essence of what the year has meant to us. Invariably we are surprised by how much has happened in the year and enjoy the moment as a celebration and affirmation of our work together.
Then, using the calendar of accomplishments that we’ve just generated, we look ahead to the coming year. Much of our year upcoming will be based on the past year: our annual planning retreat, our annual meeting dinner, our annual grant making, the Dialogue on Race events, the summer camp for youth, our monthly meetings and the annual recruitment dinner we conduct with the Montgomery County Public Schools. We brainstorm issues and concerns, new topics to address, and prioritize them by voting
This year, we met on Saturday, February 2, 2019 at Asbury United Methodist Church in Christiansburg VA. Asbury UMC generously shares its fellowship hall with The Community Group. The hall is well equipped for meetings with tables, chairs, video monitor and full kitchen facilities. We end the retreat by breaking bread together with a meal prepared by our members. Depending on the size and purpose of our meetings, we will convene in spaces made available to us generously by community partners Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church, Asbury United Methodist Church and the Old Hill School Community Center. Collaboration and partnership are watchwords for us.
We arrange the tables and seating to encourage conversation and good communication. We provide everyone writing materials, note cards, pens and markers. When someone has an idea, they can just jot it on a card that gets posted on the storyboard at the front of the room.
Meeting in small groups helps us focus and develop our ideas for the year upcoming. Here Debbie Sherman Lee, left, and Penny Franklin talk about a program to teach youngsters in the community how to swim. We are working with the Town of Christiansburg’s Aquatic Center to arrange lessons that we will fund through our New Mountain Climbers Giving Circle. One of our members, Dr. Bill Hendricks, made the suggestion to teach youngsters how to swim inspired by one of his grandchildren whose life had been saved because she knew how to swim.
We utilize visual planning tools like this storyboard and flipcharts. The storyboard provides a big, visible work space for doing calendar work for the year as well as space for prioritizing goals and objectives for the year. Employing these tools assures transparency. Everyone can see what’s being considered. By using index cards and markers, everyone can produce data, write ideas, and post them up on the board. Unlike PowerPoint, the “slides” or information cards remain visible to everyone all the time. Additionally, the data can be moved, arranged, and grouped easily. This is analog planning at its low tech best.