YOUTH GATHERING, MISSION TRIPS, OUTING, and CAMPS
by Lyle Griner © 2012
Your ministry group is known for it’s ministry with others. Wherever you travel your people look for good in others, affirming and brightening people’s day. Your people love to learn and listen to others’ faith and life stories. When someone is left out, your group welcomes them in. It is your ministry group’s time to further hone and learn relational faith skills. Relational faith travels with you, lived every day, everywhere and in every relationship. As your participants travel, your culture of caring, welcoming, and affirming ministry travels with you.
Peer Ministry Leaders (PMLs) are crucial to all of your travels, be it for an evening outing or across the country for a youth gathering or mission trip. When your PMLs travel they extend a relational base and a rhythm of Grace Place practices for your year round programing.
How Grace Travels
These are some of the elements.
ONE: Facing Outward. Your people always remember they are a youth ministry rather than merely a youth group. No matter what or where you travel, your people think of others. Better-than-thou attitudes are replaced with an interest and desire to know the stories of the people you meet along the way. If you meet people who need care, your ministry group cares for them. Your ministry group welcome people who need welcoming. Your people go out of their way to show gratefulness, appreciation and respect, in so doing affirming people along the way.
TWO: Peer Ministry Leadership. At least two of your PMLs, one male and one female, go on every outing and trip. The larger the group, the more PMLs needed. Some congregations supplement or fully pay the PMLs way considering them as essential staff. The PMLs do not take the place of your adults, but augment your leadership team. Your PMLs are participants who are always attentive to the relational interactions of your group, assuring everyone is welcomed and included. The PML’s spend time with those who need their time.
THREE: Culture Keepers. Your PMLs are the purveyors of your caring, welcoming and affirming culture. They know your language, know the importance of doing the things you do, and take pride in your traditions. They help create and shape the culture. Their leadership is a crucial element of the culture. Your PML’s own it. They embody the culture, while inspiring others.
FOUR: Beginning and Ending Circles. Every journey, be it an evening bowling trip or a mission trip across the country, begins and ends in a standing circle. The circle may be in your parking lot or inside your congregation’s building. Whoever is present in the parking lot, including people dropping off or picking up participants, are included in your circle. This is a time of prayer and blessing, led by one of your PML youth. It also a time for your PMLs to welcome and remind the group of who and whose you are, people of grace, claimed by a loving God of grace.
FIVE: Candle Time Groups and Candle Time Prayers. When outings are overnight, such as in camps, retreats, and mission trips, small group circles talking about life and faith, along with evening candle time prayers are led by your PMLs. When you use the same elements as described in “Grace Place,” it becomes a normal rhythm that participants expect, even crave, in their home youth ministry settings.
SIX: Boundaries. Guys with guys and girls with girls. Emotions, motives and methods are kept in check with guidelines and caring polices, which include travel safety and expectations.
SEVEN: Adult Appreciation. PMLs recognize that there may be adults who are coming to drive or help, who are not regular members of the leadership team. PMLs help integrate them, welcoming, and introducing them and verbalizing appreciation for their contributions.
EIGHT: Staff Check Ins. Short staff check in times are a must during longer travels, camps and retreats. Including your PMLs empowers and includes them. Check in’s are not only about logistics, but also about care concerns and time to pray for the group. PMLs lead these prayers.
NINE: Emotional Thermometers. During travel, the lack of space, lack of sleep, changed routines and encountering unexpected circumstances can change a group’s mood quickly. Adults sometimes miss the underlying feelings, or frictions among participants. PMLs in the midst of the group are often more aware of the groups emotional temperature and sometimes in a better position to resolve issues or communicate needs to the adults on the trip.
TEN: Summer Camps. We have all heard, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” This is not true of camp. Instead it is “What happens at camp continues at home.”. Your ministry grows when your PMLs make relational faith connections that continue through the year, not just for a week at camp. Creating a rhythm of candle group discussions and candle time prayer faith practices that carries over into your yearly programs is dependent on your PMLs leading these at camp. You need your PMLs interacting with and leading your kids. This works if your camp has camp counselors who are willing to step aside from some of their roles and become support staff to your PML’s. This often requires some rethinking and retraining of camp staff whose camp is their passion and stage for ministry. This takes extra work and trust building with camp directors and camp staff.