Every week this year we are exploring our theme “The People.” Today we jump in to….
The People who travel
Josh Beeler is the Associate Pastor for Youth and College at Central Baptist Church of Fountain City in Knoxville, TN. He is a graduate of Old Dominion University and of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. Josh is married to his wonderful wife, Sherry, who he enjoys sharing conversation, adventures, and life with. He is ridiculously playful and works daily to maintain his mischievousness. Josh enjoys playing, singing, reading, questioning and laughing with friends.
Fall/Winter/Spring Retreats, Mission Trips, Multisite Lock-ins, Summer Camp, Youth Choir Tour, Ski Trips, Camping Trips—and we all know the list can go on for days. Youth ministry has quite a few options for off-site events and ministries. And putting these events along side of the weekly obligations that we ask of our volunteers and leaders has the ability to drain even the best of the best. So what should we do? How do we care for our leaders and still manage to have chaperones for all of these fantastic relationship-building and faith-shaping opportunities for students? Here are a few ideas:
Form a Team of Traveling Chaperones/Leaders
One of the best ways of handling the stresses that come with youth trips is to have volunteers in place who are willing to lead only these types of events throughout the year. Find college students whose class schedules keep them too busy throughout the semester, but have weekends to offer. Find retired adults who don’t think they have what it takes work with or relate to students on a weekly basis, but might be willing to do it for a weekend. Find parents who don’t want to invade the formative space of their students weekly, but whose kids (and friends) like them (and respect them) enough, to learn from them and work with them at a retreat.
These people exist, and if you can put together a list of people from your church that will volunteer in this capacity, it will work wonders. It will allow them to play a vital role in the lives of your students, it will expose your students to more leaders and more opportunities to engage church members intergenerationally, and it will give your weekly volunteers and leaders breaks from having to be at everything.
Create a System of Trip Limits
Maybe you have some of the most passionate and committed youth volunteers on the planet (guilty, and blessed!). Maybe you have people who absolutely LOVE doing all the fun stuff with students. Or maybe you have people who feel like it’s their responsibility and obligation to constantly be present with their group of students at church events. In any of these scenarios—even if you aren’t able to have a team of people to choose from to only serve in a traveling event capacity—I think it’s absolutely vital that you set limits for how many events leaders can go on in a given year.
Leaders may not know it, but even the most passionately committed of the bunch will burn out quickly if they aren’t given time to rest and separate from their ministry field. A hectic event schedule has burned out many a youth pastor—how much more so a youth volunteer! So set parameters. Allow your regular leaders to attend youth events if they’d like to, but monitor how often they do, and require them to skip one from time to time for their own sake, and their longevity in your ministry.
Show and Speak About the Value of This Ministry
Sometimes leaders feel obligated to attend these events. Sometimes they just feel like you need a body, and they can at least be present. But if you’re like me, even in the fun things, you want someone who is going to genuinely engage your students on a relational and spiritual level. You want someone who is going to be fully engaged in this opportunity to minister to students!
So let leaders know how much you value the events you host. Tell them that you desire small leader-to-student ratios (I think most camps require a 1-to-6 ratio, but I strive for a 1-to-5) so that student voices can be heard and genuine relationships can be shaped. If possible, offer discounted chaperone rates, and be willing to cover the full cost for those who might be financially strapped—you might get some very grateful leaders who are now even more excited about the opportunity to share an event with students! And of course, share deep gratitude for the ministry they offer—let them know that they are genuinely helping to form young disciples.