I consider myself a fairly smart and well trained youth minister. I'm no expert, but I am constantly learning about youth ministry. I hold youth ministry certificates, I am studying youth ministry in college, I constantly read youth ministry magazines and books, I attend conferences, and I consistently participate in youth ministry conversations online. One lesson I learned in youth ministry though I learned the hard way.
This year I decided to take my students on a week long mission trip this summer instead of the normal church camp. While the camp we attend is great, I wanted my students to meet Jesus through serving others. I noticed a trend while attending camp, where the students were more concerned with playing bazooka ball and swimming than focusing on Christ. I thought that could be remedied by making service the focus of our summer. The turn out was terrible. I wanted 5 students for every one adult. I didn't even come close. So I started recruiting students, begging students, and almost went so far as to bribe a student to go (okay I made that last one up but you get the point). We have a GREAT group going but I was stressed out about it.
Why was I so stressed out? I thought I had to get the adult/student ratio from the trip organizers! I didn't set my own expectations. I found out later if we had gone to church camp instead there were a bunch of students that would have signed up right away. As I thought about our smaller number going to the mission trip, I thought about the benefits to taking a smaller group. Easier to manage, lower cost, and the most important factor, the mentor factor. The fewer numbers the easier it is for me to pour into the students that do go.
Next year we've decided to do a 40 hour summer camp at our local camp (we did this last year) and a week long mission trip. It stinks being bi-vocational and having to work around my vacation days from my 'other job'. But this set up will keep both numbers lower, and all students will get to go to something.
Until next time my friends!
Just keep swimming!