When I was a teenager I went on a retreat about an hour or two away from home. It was a good time; however, the strongest memory from that trip is the fact that one of the girls did not make the trip home. Our youth minister thought she was in one car, the other chaperones thought she was in the other. It wasn’t until the pastor came out of the church to tell us that the teen had just called her mother about how we left her back at the retreat site…whoops!
This hasn’t happened to me as a youth minister, and I hope it never does. However, there have more times than I would like to admit where I’ve:
Lost a teen after the trip. I’ve taken teens on trips where they get all excited and sold out for Christ but because there is no system or structure in place at home, we lost them. There is no follow up; therefore, the teen falls off our radar and possibly the path to God. The problem is due to the fact that there is no end in mind, so this is now what we do for follow up:
- Lead Them To Something Consistent: Don’t just host a retreat reunion or another event a month later. If anything build small groups and invite the teens to join. Use the event as a catalyst, into something that will create sustainability. Meet once a week (twice a month) and if anything make your agenda praying together and sharing life…start simple.
- Have Your Ministers Chaperone Not Parents: Sometimes we rely solely on parents to help us out on trips because we need chaperones. Now, I know some of our ministers are parents and there are benefits for having parents attend your trips, we need to match up the students with other God honoring adults. Plus we should aim at hooking them up with the adults who will consistently help you on a regular basis…it’s about building relationships.
It’s about consistency. It might seem like I’m suggesting you put more on your plate, but without consistency there is no sustainability. If your ministry is event based you’ll have a hard time seeing the fruit grow from your labor. You need to constantly remind them that the church is there to help them grow and help them move towards Christ. Creating a ministry that’s a system is all about creating a living, growing church.
How do you follow up with the students after a camp, retreat or event?