Paddling out into the waves is necessary, hard work. Setting an environment for students to make the most of the momentum they gain at a faith-forming experience is very similar to this. Here are some tips/reminders for your faith-forming experience preparation:
- Be sure to emphasize “life transformation”, not “behavior modification”. A transformation is lasting, where a modification is not always so.
- Use language that communicates that this faith-forming experience is not the end all, but is a “life changing experience” and there will be more life changing experiences. (This is just one of many.)
- Just like parents have a hard time understanding that they are the primary influence in a teen’s life, a lot of church youth leaders think that the guest speaker or the counselor at camp is the one that built the momentum. We all know that the glory is God’s alone, but he is also using you as a key factor in the transformation. Don’t overestimate an event/excursion/experience and don’t underestimate it. It is part of the life journey and is made more effective with your planning for each stage.
- Set up non-attenders for inclusion and growth too. If a student chooses to forego their youth group’s event, consider that it may be part of their calling. Release them from false guilt and bless their ministry wherever they may be during that time. Let them share in youth group when they get back. If you cannot bless where they are going then at least bless what God is doing in their life.In addition to the students who are unable to attend, figure out how to involve the adults, children and the rest of the congregation as well beyond the final trip report.
- Outline your desired outcomes—your expectations and measuring points for the Host Receiver, the Senders and the Goers, etc. and communicate those to parents and prayer partners.
- Plant seeds of the theme or concepts of the event 8-10 weeks before and 4-6 weeks after to aid in the process of progressive life change.
- Never work alone. Jesus sent disciples out two by two even to get a donkey tied to a tree! Ask veterans who’ve planned similar events in the past for suggestions, tips and tricks. Get members of your congregation involved as prayer partners or assisting in other areas of need.
The wave is spiritual momentum for growth and development. It’s important to work toward setting the right environment for this to take place at all stages of the event process from planning to execution to post-trip.