Going on Faith

Spring 2017

The Magazine for faith-based travel planners.

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going on faith [ goingonfaith.com ] IDENTIFY YOUR "WHY." Though they may be aimed at the same audience, not all types of youth group trips are created equal. Youth might travel on choir performance trips, retreats, summer camps, mission trips and more, and each of these types of trips comes with its own purpose and objectives. Before you begin planning a trip, make sure you understand why this trip is taking place, what the key parameters are and what the ultimate ministry objectives should be. Then make sure everyone involved — including parents, vol- unteers and even students — is on board with this purpose. 2) SET PARTICIPATION RULES. If you have identi- fied your "why," you should have a clearer under- standing of who should and should not come on this trip. You'll save yourself a lot of headaches by setting participation rules up front. That will probably include the ages of travelers, but it might also have to do with whether students need to be members or regular churchgoers to attend. Trips can be great opportunities to introduce newcom- ers to the youth group community, but some experienced youth leaders recommend having a "three-time rule" that encourages newcomers to attend three regular youth group meetings before participating in special trips. 3) RECRUIT GREAT VOLUNTEERS. Student trav- elers require a lot more supervision and attention than adult travelers do, so having some great volun- teers come along will be crucial to the success of the trip. This goes beyond finding "chaperones"; ideal volunteers are adults who enjoy spending time with teenagers, don't mind getting dirty and make good role models for the impressionable young people with whom they will be spending time. Sometimes these volunteers will be parents, but there might be other people in your congregation who have a lot to offer as well. 4) DIVIDE AND CONQUER. Running all the logis- tics of a trip and then socializing, supervising and teaching at the same time may be too much for even the best group leader. With the right adult volunteers in place, you can delegate responsibilities to adults who can focus on specific areas of logistics, supervision or ministry, leaving you free to do the things you do best. In addition to being responsible for the whereabouts of a handful of kids, each volunteer can head up an area, such as baggage han- dling, navigation or wake-up calls. 5) CREATE A COMMUNICATIONS PLAN. When you take a youth group on the road, the kids aren't the only people you must keep happy — you also have to think about their parents. Families back home will want periodic updates about what their children are doing during a trip, and they will also want to know that you have a quick and effective way of contacting them in case of emergencies, or vice versa. So before you go, set up a communications protocol that includes texting, phone calls, emails and social media. You might consider creating a spe- cific Facebook group for trip parents or employing a text messaging service that will allow you to send messages to the entire group quickly and easily. 6) ENGAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. It's a fact of life in the 21st century: Young travelers are going to be on their phones almost constantly throughout the course of a trip, and much of that time will be spent on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. Instead of trying to institute a futile electronics ban, join the young travel- ers online by creating fun hashtags and sharing photos, videos and other content from the trip in real time. 7) ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS. If you don't frequently spend time with teenagers, the daily pace of traveling with a youth group might come as something of a shock. Forget about leisurely quiet time, fine food and plenty of time to sleep — teens have energy to burn, and they do so by being loud, boisterous and active all day long and through much of the night. To keep a good attitude throughout the trip, embrace the fact that your diet, sleep, accommodations and daily routine are going to be very differ- ent than when you travel with adults. 8) BE FOOD SMART. Youth groups travelers aren't likely to have the discriminating palates of adults, but that doesn't mean you should feed them junk food for the entire trip. High-fat, high-sugar foods can be fun treats to include during a trip, but making sure the main meals are balanced and nutritious will help keep young travelers from getting sick or lethargic. Also, be on the lookout for food allergies or other dietary restrictions that might affect your meal planning. 9) LOOK OUT FOR LONERS. In even the friendli- est group of young people, there are likely to be some kids on the trip that don't quite seem to fit in. A group trip can feel long, lonely and isolating for students who have a hard time making friends, so go out of your way to make them feel valued and included. You might even recruit some older, more mature youth group members to help. MAKE TIME FOR GOD MOMENTS. The goal of any youth group trip should be to help students get closer to God, so you should be intentional about creating opportunities for that to happen. Devotionals, prayer times, teaching sessions and group wor- ship can all be parts of this equation, but don't limit ministry moments to preplanned events. Spending time together can cause travelers to open up in unexpected ways, so always be ready to make the most of these opportunities when they pres- ent themselves.

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