Today I am loading up the vans and cars and taking a group of teenagers and chaperones to an amusement park. Yes, it’s a lot of work to organize the rental vehicles, contact group sales for the discount, plan our meals, find chaperones…yada yada yada. Is it worth it?
I sat down to think about that very thing. My conclusion was… yes. While we are not engaging in deep bible study or conducting service project I believe there is value in the fun times. God created us for fellowship, both with Him and with each other. So what are some of the benefits of a well run, smoothly executed day trip off somewhere with a group of teenagers? Here are my thoughts:
- Building Group Unity – A very real aspect of living the christian life is to live it within community of other believers. This is no different with teenagers. They need each other. In fact, teenagers seek out and and hunger for that social side of life more than adults! As a ministry we need to provide opportunities for our participants to really get to know one another and begin to love one another. By this love unbelievers will know that we are for real in our faith. As a group shares experiences together they bond in special ways. They develop an identity. I’ve heard a hard nosed football coach say “the team that pukes together stays together”. I believe the principle of that is the same for positive experiences. You want a cohesive student ministry that gels and sticks together through the years, provide ample opportunities for shared experiences. Build unity through action: Do stuff together!
- Earning Respect of Parents – With each trip you take, parents will begin to see that you are a responsible leader. (…assuming things go smooth and you really are responsible.) They will also see that you really love those kids. With every trip you will build respect and trust with the parents. All student ministers need to remember that we are working with the most precious things in these parents lives! Prove that you take that responsibility seriously. Behind every successful student ministry are parents that really buy into what is happening.
- Individual Relationship Building – When you go on a trip together, not only does your whole group bond, you have opportunity to deepen those relationships with individuals. Students need to know you care for them. When you sit down next to a teenager and relive “that time you lost your phone on the roller coaster” or “when GPS got possessed by the Devil and…” your relationships will soar to that next level. They know you and trust you. Only then will they be willing to come to you when the hard times hit. Create environments to really get to know students. That can’t happen from a pulpit.
- Antidote to Apathy – When the stats for hours per day spent on gaming or internet browsing are staggering, going on a trip together is just the thing we need to spark some interest! Show the teens in your area that you are up to SOMETHING! Most of the time teenagers will get into trouble simply because they had nothing better to do. Fight the apathy in those teenagers you have influence on, go on some trips!
- The Front Door of our Ministry – Lets face it. Most friends get invited to an activity before they come to a bible study or the small group setting. These activities are open doors to meet the other teenagers in the group, meet the adult leader, all in a neutral setting. If you INTENTIONALLY use your events as a way to gain prospects for your regular programming you can gather some good intel! Take it for what its worth.
So I plan regular trips to get out of the normal routine and just be together. We are living life together. When we share the good times it makes it easier to get real and share the bad time too.
Pray that I don’t lose my cookies on the coaster. 🙂
Your fellow worker in the field, Adam