|Me napping in Nashville- 1999 Mission Trip|
Trips were always among my favorite things about being in student ministry, and I led a bunch of them over my 28 years of service- by my best estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 100! There were more than a dozen trips to NYC; nearly 20 trips to Myrtle Beach; 10 or so ski trips; international trips to Mexico and the Bahamas; and various trips to DC, Nashville, Chicago, Spartanburg, Walt Disney World and Dungannon. There were also retreats, concerts and Night of Joy/Rock the Universe, as well as various day trips. We traveled a lot, and my former students tell me those trips were among the best things they have ever experienced. Over those years I compiled a lot of miles in vans and learned a lot of tips to help keep me sane! Today I share 7 of my worst kept secrets with you. Not included is the important but obvious tip, "Never pass up an opportunity to take a nap!" I hope you enjoy this list...
1) Know Your Purpose - Every trip should have a main purpose; if not, I'm not sure why you would be taking it. And whatever that main purpose is, build the trip around it. Mission trips are obvious, but most every other trip you need to advertise and schedule to fit your purpose. When we went to Myrtle Beach, our purpose was fellowship, and we said so. It would have been unfair and purpose-defeating to schedule 6 hours of study or service each day. But there was nothing wrong with a house meeting, devo and worship at the end of each day to remind them why our group exists in the first place- that was a part of the fellowship. Don't try to pull a bait & switch on your students. Know your purpose.
|Me expressing my expectations at |
Myrtle Beach, 2004
3) Music - If you are taking a van, make sure you have a system in place for controlling the music the driver has to listen to. In the old days, the co-pilot (usually another adult) controlled the radio. Once cassette players and then CD players became a factor, I always had a rule that anyone could pass up music to be played, but they were limited to 3 songs. This meant if they passed up something awful (like, for instance, rap!) we knew it would be over fairly quickly. Now, with I-pods, I think it is important to schedule some "group music" time, letting kids pass up their MP3 players and using the 3 song rule. Every trip needs a soundtrack. In any case, make sure you bring plenty of music you like so you can educate them in the good stuff. And always- ALWAYS! - begin a trip with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Don't ask why. Just do it!
|Sometimes culture is overrated...|
5) Outside the Lines - This is a bit controversial, and is one you can only do if you have already built great relationships with the students you serve- but it is soooo worth it! Take your group and intentionally do something you previously told them not to do. Break a rule! For instance, at the beach we always said don't go in the ocean after dark. Take them all swimming at midnight. In New York we would sometimes hike to Times Square at 2 AM, or turn left coming out of the Milford Plaza (a real no-no!) just so they could see some real NYC night life. Extend curfew on the last night of a retreat and order pizza. Don't be reckless, but show them you know how to get a little crazy. And make sure everyone is invited to join in. These types of things will change the way they see you and provide your group with stories they will never forget.
|They don't seem to be suffering too much at |
the seafood buffet!
7) Be Relentless/The Trust Factor - A mom from one of my groups, who took several trips with us a chaperon, once wrote that she was amazed at the trust I gave my students. She was also amazed at the way they responded to being trusted and loved. That was very cool to hear. She then went on to write about the other part of the story, which is that "with Carl there is no unplanned moment. The opportunities for mischief are few and far between." Both of these things are true. I trusted them unless one of them they showed me they didn't deserve it, and I always kept them busy. Even during free times I kept them focused on The Next Big Thing. The one catch to this theory is that you have to match their energy and enthusiasm, because you have to model what you want them to do.
|Melbourne Beach, 1996. Every group photo |
captures a unique moment in our lives.
Because of Jesus,