My husband knows me well. He knows I’ve been d y i n g to attend a conference. Any kind of conference. A women’s conference. A Christian conference. A blogging conference. An underwater basket weaving conference. (Okay, not so much that last one.) Since we’ve been married I’ve seen him off to about four conferences, and watched as others I’ve wanted to attend pass by. To be fair, I’ve spent most of the past two years either pregnant or nursing a baby, so the ability to flit away for a weekend wasn’t exactly a convenient option. (And can we talk about the expense!?)

The Cove’s Christian Blogger’s Retreat was the perfect solution. Only four hours away in Asheville, North Carolina, the conference was close enough and short enough, one night, to suit our family’s needs. Not to mention the price was incredibly affordable, as conferences go. The ticket price included a conference pass, lodging and (ohmygoshgetinmybelly delicious) meals.

The lineup of speakers was perfectly diverse. Each one approached blogging from slightly different angles and experiences. Their talks were a nice mix of theory and strategy.

Here are a few takeaways.

Jess Connolly | @JessAConnolly | “Living Inspired” & “Instagram For Your Brand”

    • We feel a pressure to be inspiring, but forget our main role is to be inspired. In the desire to be known as something, we forget our role is to be known by God.
    • If you want a powerful ministry, minister out of a place of brokenness.
    • Do you write from a place of burden? Whose life do you weep over?
    • We need to breathe in before we speak out.
    • We work from approval, not for approval.
  • Be intentional with your Instagram. (Or any other social media!) You have direct access to someone’s hand, head, and heart – use that access well, to bless them.
  • Make your Instagram about other people, not yourself.
  • Do what you need for a good photo. Move around, find better light, make it work. (Two photo editing apps she recommended were Mexture and Afterlight.)
  • Use video, especially if you have a lot of content to share at once.
  • Invite your readers into your space. Ask for a comment, telling you something related to your post.
  • Use giveaways as a way to bless people, not as a gimmick.

Drew Hawkins | @drewhawkins | “I Didn’t Know A Pin Could Do That!”

I don’t have as many one-liner takeaways from Drew’s talk, mainly because it was super practical and less theoretical. I will say that if you want to learn more about leveraging social media, you need to follow Drew. He is the Digital Strategist at DeMoss (think, as one attendee put it, “Christian MadMen.”) He shared immensely practical ways to use Pinterest. Check out this ‘Board of Man’ he curated, which currently has over 214K followers. Drew says he and his friends started the board purely for fun, as an experiment. I think that’s an element of social media we often miss in the middle of strategizing: pure fun.

Jon Acuff | @jonacuff | “10 Questions Every Blogger Needs to Answer” & “How To Blog With GRIT!”

  • Ripoff ideas are not honoring to God. God made you unique, be unique.
  • The joy of blogging must be tied to creation, not success.
  • Don’t make the driver of your blog traffic an idol. If you do, burn it.
  • Ask, “What is the goal of my blog?” (He suggested making guest post guidelines as a way to back into this question, which I thought was super smart!)
  • How much time will I dedicate to my blog?
  • What do I want people to do after they visit my blog?
  • What does success look like for my blog?

  • Bravery + Empathy + Hustle = GRIT
  • Bravery is being stubborn in the face of fear.
  • Empathy is understanding what someone needs and acting on it.
  • Hustle is doing important things others don’t to enjoy the results others won’t.
  • Simply ask your audience what they need. They’ll probably tell you!
  • Hustle has seasons.
  • God isn’t handcuffed by your failures or your successes.

Jen Schmidt | @beautyandbedlam | “Blogging Trade Secrets: What I Wish I Knew Then”

  • Competition builds a platform for self-promotion, like a stage. Community builds a platform to invite more people in, like a front porch.
  • Being unique is where passion and purpose intersect.
  • You have to love your brand, and other’s will, too.
  • Make a media kit to reach out to other brands for partnerships.
  • Pin and repin posts. (It’s okay, really!)

Like Drew’s talk, I don’t have many one liner takeaways. Jen’s talk was super fast paced and she covered a lot of ground. My favorite part about her talk, though, was that I got to sit down with her for a brief moment afterwards and work through some practical blogging questions I had about working with brands. She seems super eager to help others, which I loved.

My favorite thing about the Christian Blogger’s Retreat was the intimate setting. And I don’t just mean the cozy feel of The Cove’s Training Center, though there’s that. With about 50 attendees, we got to spend more one-on-one time with each other, and even the speakers. I met so many talented and passionate fellow bloggers, learning from them and being inspired by their work. Here are just a few:

Reaching Beyond My Reach

Embracing The Mosaic Life

Journey PINK 

Hopefully this was the first of many similar conferences from The Cove! Catch all moments from the conference by searching #CoveBlogRetreat.


  1. Beth Anne on November 30, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    I love this! I’m actually so jealous of this event, sounds amazing! (Yep, totally unChristlike to be jealous! Maybe I should just say I’m happy you got to go and it sounds wonderful!) Asheville is actually only about 4 hours from me as well! Just 4 hours in a different direction 🙂

    A small, intimate conference just sounds so perfect. Sounds like you took home a lot, and even just reading this, I’ve learned some new things and re-focused what I’m doing this whole thing for.

    Thanks for this, Victoria! (I would say I’d love to come to this event next year, but by then, we’ll probably live across the country…..)

    • writer on December 1, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      I had no idea you were so close to this part of the country, Beth Anne! Man, I should have shared more about this conference! It would have been BEYOND fun to meet you in person! But, yes, I hope The Cove brings back this event. It was so valuable. (Here’s hoping if they do, you’ll be close enough to consider!)

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