So you’re taking your youth group on a summer trip? Awesome! Trips can be amazing high-impact experiences, which help youth connect with God and one another in new ways. Trips are also huge opportunities for you and your adult volunteers to solidify your relationships with the youth. Here are a few tips to help your youth group get the most out of your experience.
Prepare with Purpose!
1. Remember, it’s about relationships – not the perfectly structured plan that you came up with. If something doesn’t get accomplished, 99% of the time, it’ll be okay. Stay focused on making a difference in people’s lives!
2. Pray with your adult leaders and with your youth. Set the tone for the trip as one that will be amazingly fun and meaningful as we live for Jesus together. Also – it usually doesn’t hurt to pray over that terrible church van. You know the one.
3. Enlist great leaders!
- Get adult leaders who are responsible but flexible. Adult leaders who are too rigid can create unnecessary tension and cause the group to miss out on a meaningful moment.
- Ask your adult leaders to fully participate in all activities. In the van, they should be sitting with the youth – not hogging shotgun. During game time, they need to be pummeling youth with dodgeballs, not sitting off to the side, texting.
- Talk to some of your young leaders ahead of time and ask them to help you model what the trip is all about. Let’s be intentional about raising up young Christian leaders!
4. Travel with medical release forms. Yes they are a huge pain, but they’re a necessary evil. Have the parents get them notarized if possible – many hospitals won’t accept them otherwise. Also, do yourself a favor by making all forms and money due before the day of the trip. If you don’t, somebody will forget their form and you won’t leave on time.
5. Bring extra stuff that people are going to forget. This might save someone a trip back to their house – or if it’s discovered after you leave, it might solve what would have otherwise been a major inconvenience.
6. Bring an extra pair of shoes. It’s the cardinal rule of camping – and a great one for youth trips as well.
On the Road
7. Tell your drivers to go the speed limit – for safety and to represent God well. Your church name is likely plastered on the side of the van for the whole world to see.
8. Know what music you’re going to play in the van. Teens have no idea what good music is. Yeah, I said it. Why not get together with your worship leader and ask them to give you some songs that they’d like the congregation to become more familiar with?
9. Avoid banning electronics. I encourage you to find ways to help your youth understand when and how they can use their devices appropriately. You might talk with them ahead of time and remind them that group interaction is a goal for the trip. If they can’t be mature about it, sure, ban electronics. If you suspect that “helicopter” parents won’t leave their kids alone, you might also consider banning electronics.
10. Bring a good game for the van. Catch Phrase is great for trips!
11. Think about how you’re going to eat while you’re on the road. Larger groups might want to plan their food stops ahead of time and have the Youth Minister do the buying (instead of 47 individual purchases). Also, if you go to a sit down joint, be super generous with the tip!
12. For big youth groups traveling to large events, have someone tall wear something ridiculous to help keep your group together. Many groups do this at the National LCMS Youth Gathering.
13. Have a quick way to keep the parents updated about your progress and let them know what your ETA back at church is. A text messaging group is an easy way to get this done quickly.
14. If you need cheap lodging, you can often call other LCMS churches and ask them to put up your group for the night. It’s a great way to secure convenient lodging and connect with other Christians. Be sure to send them a thank-you note and a small donation for their trouble!
15. Don’t be a dummy when it comes relationship safety:
- If your group is co-ed, make sure you have male and female adult leaders;
- Have separate sleeping quarters for men and women;
- Make sure no two people of the opposite sex are ever alone, even in the car;
- Make sure your adult leaders are never alone with a youth of either sex, even in the car.
16. Avoid cracking down on the youth just because they’re annoying the mess out of you. Seriously, it doesn’t take long. Make sure that if you’re going to get on to them, that it’s actually for some behavior that crosses the line – not just because it irks you. I’ll be honest, this one is super hard for me!
17. Observing some PDA? Taking them aside and talking to them is usually the best way to go. Just communicate that you think highly of them and expect them to model mature behavior. In some cases, humor can also be a great way to deal with it. Just make sure the whole youth group knows that you find their relationship incredibly cute. Perform an impromptu marriage if you have to. I’m guessing they’ll back off.
18. If you’re planning on watching a movie with your youth group, for the sake of all that is holy, please re-watch it ahead of time. I guarantee it’s way more inappropriate than you remember. Not that I’ve ever experienced the horror of making this mistake….
Create Teachable Moments
19. Build extra time into the schedule. One time my group was in the vicinity of Mesa Verde National Park and we were able to make the unscheduled detour to visit it, because we had extra time. Of course, when we got there, the kids all found the 1400 year old Anasazi cliff dwellings to be boring. Grrr. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
20. Ask great “God questions!” Help the youth process their experience by asking open-ended questions about what God is doing and what you’re experiencing together.
21. Plan opportunities for the youth to get into God’s Word and process how the trip is impacting their faith.