Read on for leadership tips and detailed schedules and activities you’re welcome to use.

How to Plan — Creating a Safe SpaceSample SchedulesExercises & Activities

How to Plan a Workshop

A workshop is a way for people to join together to learn about violence against women. It shows survivors that people care enough about them to become more aware of the issues. It is more likely that action in the community will come about if there is a critical mass of people who have met each other and are energized about a subject.

Violence against women is a very difficult issue for most people. During the course of a workshop, strong feelings may be aroused. These feelings must be dealt with as they occur if the workshop is to be successful. Otherwise, participants may leave feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or depressed. Such feelings interfere with working toward a solution to the problem. For this reason we strongly recommend that planners of workshops give serious attention to the following suggestions.


A workshop on violence against women confronts people with brokenness — their own and others. Worship can be an important source of healing and hope. Plan to incorporate elements of worship into your workshop setting. This should be done not just as an add-on or filler, but as an integral part of the workshop, understanding that people learn in many different ways.


Leadership should be provided by a team rather than a single person. Team leadership gives the participants access to several perspectives on the issue and enables those in leadership roles to better respond to a variety of needs and reactions among the participants. The team should be clear that at least one of its members is comfortable dealing with feelings.

Take stock of your community to see what kinds of resource people are available. The leadership team may include representatives from clergy, from helping professionals like counsellors or social workers, and, most importantly, a survivor of violence. Having people of diverse genders or sexual identities, as well as people from different cultural groups, will help you plan a workshop that will speak to a wide range of people.


Participants come to a workshop expecting input from the facilitators. Know your participants and determine what they know about the subject, and what they want to learn. Short segments of input from a presenter are manageable, particularly if they are interactive (allowing for questions) and involve visual aids. You may have a resource person who can provide input, or a facilitator might want to summarize some of the material on this website for the group.

Material on the analyses of violence against women is not always the most comfortable starting point. Response is likely to be much better if the workshop starts with a concrete human situation, until the safety of the group and the credibility of the leaders have been established.

When participants realize that violence against women is a widespread problem which causes much suffering, they are likely to begin asking, “Why does this happen?” At this point they are more open to a social analysis of the problem.

Be careful that the vocabulary you use matches the educational level of participants. Describe what you mean by certain words, using examples. Know your participants; you might want to delay using what some consider “red-flag words” such as feminism, sexism or patriarchy, until later in the workshop after some trust has been established.


  • Set goals about what you hope to accomplish in the workshop. Know your group. Where are they at in the process of understanding violence against women?
  • Below you will find a number of sample outlines. They do not include all of the materials provided; read through the workshop suggestions and choose the activities that you think will capture the imagination of your group.
  • There are excellent videos listed in the resource section. Use them as options in your workshop outline, but be sparing in your use of videos. People can slip into “spectator” mode if you give them too much to watch, and not enough with which to interact.
  • Try to include a service provider from your community as a guest speaker to bring home the connection between church and community. Make sure that you explain the goals of the workshop to the guest speaker. Provide the speaker with an outline of the workshop ahead of time, emphasizing the length of time you wish them to speak and the length of time you’d like them to entertain questions. Be clear about who will field the questions. Explain the make-up of your group to them, so they know the audience they will address.
  • Be modest in what you hope to accomplish in your workshop. There is only so much that people can absorb, and if you pack too much into one day, they are likely to leave feeling overwhelmed rather than enlightened!
  • Workshops should be informative, but they should also be evocative, so that people will be motivated to go home and try to learn more. Be sure to hand out a resource list, or have books available that people can borrow to continue their learning.
  • Make sure you schedule in adequate breaks. The time given for lunch is not simply to eat, but also to give people some mental space to digest what the morning contained, and to make personal connections. Don’t cut your lunch break short in hopes of including one extra workshop section.
  • The physical set-up of the room is important. Rather than rows, try to have a circular setting, where everyone is included in the circle. Make sure there are a number of breaks in the circle, so that people can slip in and out easily.

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Creating a Safe Space

A workshop can lead to sharing on a very personal level. In fact, the goals of your workshop may not be achieved without a high level of trust in the group. Participants should never be pressured to share personal stories. If they choose to share something personal, it is essential for confidentiality to be respected. Information about the experiences of anyone in the group must never be passed on, although it is valid to share your own feelings and reactions about a story.

In order to build trust, the leaders should emphasize in their introduction that everyone has the right to be accepted as they are for who they are, everyone is responsible for their own feelings and feelings are neither good nor bad in themselves.

For group discussions, the leader should remind the participants to respect the right of everyone to have time to speak. No one should be pressured to speak. Some people feel more comfortable participating through listening, and their choice to be silent needs to be respected.

Make sure that one person in the leadership team is comfortable facilitating larger group discussions. As a facilitator, remember to ask open-ended questions, rather than questions requiring a yes/no answer. It is essential that the facilitator of the discussion show respect for all participants. The facilitator should not allow one participant to dominate a discussion. Using a phrase like, “Let’s hear from someone else now,” or “I’d like to give everyone a chance to speak,” is usually sufficient to set limits on an individual’s contribution.

A workshop on violence against women can bring up a lot of feelings. One of the most important functions of the workshop is to provide participants with an opportunity to become more familiar and comfortable with their feelings around this issue. Participants will not be overwhelmed, or leave the workshop depressed, if care is taken to deal with feelings as they arise.

At the beginning of the workshop, acknowledge to participants that this is an issue which touches many people personally, and about which most people have strong feelings. There is no reason to be alarmed if such feelings surface during the workshop.

Allow ample opportunity for airing feelings. Give an opportunity to identify feelings after every activity likely to have an emotional impact. This can be done by a simple check-in, asking “How are people feeling?” or debriefing more extensively. Give people permission to take a break or to leave the room if they are feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable.

A workshop can bring up difficult memories or overwhelming emotions for some people. Be sure to have information on hand to share with everyone about local counsellors or crisis lines that they can call for help.

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Pick Your Ideal Schedule

One-day Workshop

Purpose:  To show the brokenness in our world because of violence against women, and how God can use churches to bring healing.

1-Day Workshop Outline (doc)


Two Full-day Workshops

Workshop One: To get an overview of the topic of violence against women, and explore our reaction to the topic.

Workshop Two: To explore theological implications of violence against women and strategize for change.

These workshops are most effectively spaced one week apart, so that some work can be done between them.

2-Day Workshop Outline (doc)


Evening Workshop Series

Evening One:  To hear stories of violence against women and be in touch with our own reactions/emotions.

Evening Two:  To reflect theologically on these stories.

Evening Three:  Strategizing for change in our congregation.

Evening Four:  Strategizing for change in our community

Evening Workshops Outline (doc)


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Exercises & Activities

Telling Secrets

Purpose:  To make people aware of the sensitive nature of the stories of survivors. To help people understand the feeling of vulnerability. (time…approximately 15 minutes)

Resources:  Envelopes that can seal and paper/pencils for everyone in the room.

Activity – Telling Secrets


Hearing Voices of Women

Purpose:  To hear a variety of Canadian women speak their experience of violence. (time…approximately 40 minutes)

Resources needed: Choosing stories that reflect differences in race, age, geographical location, ability, etc. See resource section of the document.

Three different female readers

Pens & paper

Activity – Hearing Voices of Women


Naming Our Emotions

Purpose:  To use poetry as a means to uncover the emotions surrounding the topic of violence against women. (time…approximately 50-60 minutes)

Resource:  Poems from the resource section of this website.

Activity – Naming Our Emotions


Walking in Different Shoes

Purpose:  To understand how different oppressions intersect in women’s lives. (time…approximately 60 minutes)

Resources:  Paper and pens, a bowl.

Activity – Walking in Different Shoes


Janet’s Story

Purpose:  To help participants visualize the way in which the circumstances of an abused woman limit her options. This activity is a graphic way to answer the persistent question, “Why does she stay?” (time…approximately 30 minutes)

Resources:  Two facilitators and a pile of eight blankets or old bedspreads.

Adapted from Violence in the family:  A workshop curriculum for clergy and other helpers, by Marie M. Fortune. Cleveland, Ohio:  Pilgrim Press, 1991. pp. 46-48.

Activity – Janet’s Story


A Time to Reflect

(using Biblical Reflections found at the end of this section)

Purpose:  to allow women time to personally reflect on the stories of violence that have touched their own lives, and to connect these with their faith. (time…approximately 50-60 minutes)

Activity – A Time to Reflect


The Road to Forgiveness

Purpose:  To lead people in reflection on their own experiences of forgiveness (time…approximately 45 minutes)

Resources:  pen and paper

Activity – The Road to Forgiveness


Conducting a Resource Audit

Purpose:  To discover what resources are available in your community, and how accessible they are to women.

To evaluate whether these resources are adequate.

To strategize how your community can get involved. (time….approximately 60 minutes)

Activity – Conducting a Resource Audit

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