“I love being a leader on our mission trip.” Your summer trips and camps set the same tone, culture and practices that will easily translate into your year round programming. Choose trips and camps where your youth can lead their own small groups. Well trained ahead of time, your teens lead those close knit, candle time discussions that will be used in the same ways when you get home. Not sure how to do this? Let’s implement a plan.
TRIP? CAMP? GATHERING?
CREATE YEAR-ROUND SUCCESS!
I used to think of summer camps, trips and youth gatherings were sort of like a Jesus-booster-shot; those mountain high experiences that would transform lives into youth who will immediately re-prioritize their lives to live as disciples of Christ and of course show up, with great enthusiasm to all my upcoming wonderful (and amazing) events!
I love the summer camps, trips and gatherings, but I now view my objectives differently. My goals are less about mountain highs and more about sustaining leadership. I focus on three specific areas.
1. Building a culture that can be repeated year round!
Use the same key elements on your camp, trip and gathering that you want in your weekly youth ministry. For instance I want to see youth passionately exploring faith and life in small groups. I want to hear youth saying, “It is my candle group that gets me through the rest of my week.”Candle times (imagine sitting around a campfire talking late into the night) are small groups sitting very close, in dimmed spaces around a candle. Their conversation is guided by a prewritten sheet of conversation starters prepared around a specific topic and scripture. Summer experiences is one of the best places to introduce this practice. For us, no matter what the trip experience, candle groups end up being one of the biggest highlights. When returning home it is easy to say, “And next week our candle groups will be meeting at…” Intentionally use practices on your trips that you want to incorporate year round.
- Travel with candles!
- Prepare a top notch discussion for each evening.
- Consider using Talk-Abouts! Easy to lead, all about caring for others, faith and life discussions.
- Form groups that can continue with when you get home.
- Learn successful elements that work for weekly youth led youth ministry.
2. Develop a core leadership team.
Travel with a talented group of core youth who model and mentor a trusting culture, and who lead a variety of our trips elements along the way. These are the youth who lead candle time discussions and prayers. These youth lead morning devotions, campfire talks, prayers at work sites, intentional one on one conversations with other youth and so forth. Meet with these youth daily to check-in on how everyone’s experience is going. Your core team will always be aware of personal concerns. Help this core team grow in their leadership skills on the trip. You will discover a willing team of youth who will want to continue leading at home.
- Think of this as your camp staff, but one that goes home with you.
- This will become the team that other youth want to be part of next year.
- Train this team in Peer Ministry Leadership
- If you have of an early teen team train with The EveryDay Samaritan
- Name your core team. Create their own hat, shirt or sweat shirt.
3. Assume all your youth are leaders.
Remember you are a youth ministry, not a youth group. Youth ministry is about caring for others, Youth group is an inward focused club. On trips, camps and gatherings your youth are all relating to other youth, each with unique joys, sorrows and struggles. Your youth are the front lines of relational ministry. Help your youth be caring ministers. Do this by giving them relational skills. (Use caring, welcoming and affirming skills out of Peer Ministry Leadership.) Do this by asking! Ask about their daily observations of people around them. Who have you seen, heard or sensed concerns for today? How did you help, or wish you could help? What was the tug or nudge you felt inside? What ideas can we help you with in order to be better at caring for this person? We call these “Spirit nudges.” If you assume all your youth are leaders the surprise is that they will all become relational leaders. Help them help others! That is what Christians do!
- Teach the WHEAT exercise from Peer Ministry. (FREE cards)
- Use the 500 Ready Goes – Give these to all your youth and let them use them during our trips as a way of engaging other youth in conversation. 5oo talk starters topics for playful anytime, anywhere discussions! Easy and effective. (only $10 for unlimited printing!)
- Spirit Nudges. (FREE) Groups often use highs and lows to start groups. This is a good practice, but also inward focused. Add Spirit Nudge questions for an outward ministry focus.
- Doing Likewise -These ready to print and use cards use a scripture with themes about caring, welcoming and affirming others. Use these for shorter candle time discussions, or I use them for morning quiet times. only $45 for unlimited printing!)
Do not miss your summer opportunities for intentionally creating your year-round experiences. I want your camp, trip and gathering to be an experience that builds a rhythm that returns to your home turf!