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Jonathan's Answers to Tough Questions

QUESTION:

Jonathan,

Man you are awesome and even though I don't know you personally, I Love You Man! Thanks for this site. I thank God for you constantly.

I am about to go on a trip to a youth convention that will have about 22-23 thousand people there and I have a group of about 45 going. I am nutz about preventative-planning cause I think that it is crazy to have problems arise that could have been avoided. I have learned that even with the best effort "stuff happens." I was wondering if you had any advice on some guidelines for my chaperones on the trip. I have thought about having a buddy system in place since I will have basically 1 chaperone for every student. This is due to the fact that I am using the 18 year olds and older for chaperones. I have about four high school seniors and several 1st and 2nd year college students. I don't want them to not have a good time at the event, but we are going to be there for 3 days in Knoxville, TN and most of my students are at-risk kids that will need supervision. I just want it to be the best that it can for everyone. This is our fifth year going, but our first with this new group of kids. I don't want to be too up-tight and stifle any chance of us having fun. I get accused of being "to serious" sometimes and "needing to just chill out." Help Me Please if you can. I just want to reach these kids for Christ, not harm my relationship with the chaperones, and avoid as many problems as possible.

Thanks and God Bless,

Jason, Georgia

ANSWER:

Jason,

Thanks for the email and the encouragement. Glad the site is a help.

Your convention sounds cool- good to hear you're a planner- I like people that plan ahead. Not enough people in youth work do.

As for the chaperone thing. First- let's kill the word "chaperone." We don't want the students to think of the adults as "rent-a-cops" to avoid on the trip. But you ask a good question. What can you set up in advance to make good use of this time that staff and students share together? And are there rules or guidelines that will help with safety on this trip? A couple thoughts.

First: Let's talk relational- we'll get to safety and logistics in a minute. The number one goal I'd instill in my staff and adults going on the trip would be "one-on-one time with students." And lucky for you and your ratio - that will be easy.

I always did an annual trip down south with a couple hundred outreach students. I let my staff know that I had a three-fold goal on that trip: That students would hear the Gospel presented from on stage, that students would hear the Gospel presented in their small group, and that students would hear the Gospel one-on-one. We coordinated our program to do just that. We had programs with a speaker on stage, small group times, and plenty of opportunities for "one-on-ones" throughout the trip. Regardless of the goal of a trip- I always included "one-on-one" times. Even on other trips with my student leaders, we would attend programs, have small group time to discuss it, and then plenty of time for one-on-ones.

One things students lack these days are caring adults that are willing to spend time with them. I make sure that my ministry provided just that.

How do you do this. What I did was usually assign two staff with a number of kids of the same gender. Men with guys, Ladies with girls. (For me that was usually two staff for NO MORE than 8-10 students for junior high age, and two staff for NO MORE than 12-14 students for high school age. If you don't have enough staff- go to my HOW DO I . . . ? page and check out the article on recruiting volunteers.) I assign them that group for the weekend. We use that group for small group time, for counting everyone on the buses so we don't leave them anywhere, etc. I let the staff know- that their goal by the end of the weekend is to have spent one-on-one time with each one of them. I encourage them to take them to fast food, grab a milkshake, a walk along the beach- whatever. To just get some one-on-one time to get to know them and to talk to them about the Gospel, their life of Faith, leadership, family . . . whatever that student needs.

Two staff per group allows you the ability to put an experienced staff person with a new or younger staff person that might need a little more time under their belt. It also gives them the freedom for one staff person to go off with a student "one-on-one" while the other staff maintained the group.

Check out my article on KEEPING VOLUNTEERS on my HOW DO I . . .? page. I talk about the importance of training your staff and volunteers for this very thing. My staff were always trained in the basics of "how to build relationships with students" - so they knew what to do during those one on one times.

Another fun thing I try to do sometimes (I mentioned this in that same article on KEEPING VOLUNTEERS) is giving each of my staff some money that they can spend on students for these one-on-one times.

Now what about safety? Do students need "chaperones" at all times or should we let them go free? This is a judgement call you'll have to make- but I can give you a little personal insight. With junior high/middle school (12-14 year olds) I require students to stick with their small groups. So they are never without a staff person. (I mentioned earlier- my small group leaders are the same gender as the students.) With high school, depending on the event, I'll often give time lines and boundaries of where they can go and when they have to be back. But even with these times- my students always enjoyed my staff and usually CHOSE to hang out with them during these times. In both situations, staff were able to find one on one times while eating at fast food, waiting in line, etc.

As for more rules and guidelines, check out this sample weekend retreat I posted on my HOW DO I . . .? page. It demonstrates what a weekend trip can actually look like, how rules can be announced, boundaries set, etc. I talk about the balance of enforcing the rules vs. relationships. I think you'll find plenty of good ideas throughout: CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK TO OUR "HOW DO I...?" PAGE

Hope that helps. Have a good time.

God Bless,
Jonathan McKee
The Source for Youth Ministry
www.TheSource4YM.com













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