Today we started our annual youth conference trip. A definite community-builder for any youth group.
This year, we’re attending Creation Festival in Washington, then heading over to Vancouver, Canada for some short-term mission work.
As a Youth Pastor, I really try hard to give the students very few rules and limitations. It’s always amusing how quickly the students expect me to act like their parents on a trip like this, but that is definitely not my goal within this environment. I firmly believe that it’s important for them to have some safe, healthy independence during a youth conference trip.
I always enjoy seeing their faces when this freedom first sets in. Usually, it’s after they’ve asked a question or permission for something relatively important to them, but fairly insignificant on the grand scale of the trip. It’s at that moment, that their parents typically would give them a specific directive in response, but I prefer to ask them their opinion. “What do you want to do? What do you think is the best plan?”
A few answers like this and they feel empowered and validated, which is so exciting for me to witness. I feel that this is so fundamental to encourage students in moving into the young adult world while on a trip of this nature. The pay-off in relational and even spiritual growth is so worth it!
In regards to the rules that I do stick by, there are some straight forward ones like I prefer groups of three with one cell phone between them. I also prefer that in each group of three, there be at least one guy. These are fairly typical and sensible to most youth ministries.
However, I also have some unique rules like the “no headphones” rule. It may seem strange, but I want to be clear that I’m not against music and definitely not against other forms of digital media. I just feel that every aspect of these trips should be shared. By plugging into head-phones, the student is able to totally disconnect from the rest of the group. That’s just not acceptable in my book.
In regards to other forms of digital media, I want to encourage students to blog, post and tweet throughout the trip. There are incredible benefits to the family and friends back home. It can be a powerful thing when our church family can walk through this amazing adventure with us. Furthermore, it can also provide time for personal and group reflection, as experiences are recorded and distributed amongst peers and the general public. For example, this very post that I’m writing while in flight, over Northern British Columbia!
What are your thoughts on the “no headphones” rule?