Caring for Your Leaders on Trips
Camps, retreats, and mission trips can be huge sacrifices for our volunteer leaders. They are leaving behind families, taking personal vacation time, and giving up their own lives to invest in the lives of teenagers. These trips are both exhausting and rewarding.
So how can you care for and encourage them during these special trips?
Here are a few ways to equip, love, and hopefully keep your leaders coming back for future trips:
Equip and connect with your leaders.
Spend time meeting with and preparing your leaders prior to your trip. Make sure they understand the vision and purpose. Provide them with schedules and what to expect. Do some leadership training to equip them with tips and ideas on leading small groups or connecting with students. Spend time praying for your team and students. Make sure to laugh and have fun together. Take your leaders to a sporting event, team-building experience, or some other group bonding activity.
It is important that you enjoy some quality time together as a team so that your students will see how much you care for one another once you are on the trip. Make an effort to really get to know your leaders: learn about their families, hobbies, interests. Ask your veteran leaders to pair up with a rookie leader and invite them out to coffee or lunch to answer questions, share wisdom, and simply get to know them better. A few days before your trip, host a fun cookout or dinner for your leaders and their families. Make this an opportunity to have fun together while also thanking the family members left behind for their sacrifice while your leaders are away.
Provide simple gifts throughout the week.
Take some time to prepare a note and small gift to give your leaders at the beginning of your trip. You can write scripture, encouraging notes, and provide them with something fun to share with students during the week like candy, party favors, or money/gift cards for special treats. Typical retreat schedules include late nights and early mornings so provide your leaders with good coffee in the morning to get them going. Allow them to have some down time in the afternoon if needed. Schedule group and individual check-ins with your leaders throughout each day. Include the following questions:
- How are you doing today?
- Is there anything I can do to encourage you or help you?
- Are their any issues or concerns among the group?
Make sure you leaders know that you care about them and that you are available to serve them.
Put together nice care packages.
A really great way to care for your leaders is by collecting various notes and gifts of encouragement from the people who are impacted by their lives daily. Prior to your trip, ask family members, co-workers, friends, and students to put together meaningful reminders of home, work, or church. Ask them to write down some of the many ways that they love and appreciate having that leader in their lives everyday. Try to make this a surprise if you can. You can either set a deadline to collect everything before the trip or have the packages mailed to your camp or retreat. Find a time during the middle of your trip to present these special care packages to your leaders. Hopefully this will be a great boost and source of comfort to get them through the rest of the week.
Debrief and encourage after the trip.
Schedule a time within the first two weeks following your trip to get together with your leaders again. This could be another fun dinner or cookout to gather, share memories from the trip, and talk about ways to improve the experience next time. Give your leaders a thank you note and something simple like gift cards for a fun date night or a family dinner to enjoy with the people they missed while away with students.
When you take the time to truly invest in the lives of your leaders and show them you genuinely care for them, they will experience God’s love through you. When they feel appreciated, they will continue to make sacrifices to invest in students’ lives and they will want to encourage other adults to be a part of your ministry as well.
ANDY JUVINALL has been serving in youth ministry for 15+ years and especially loves junior high ministry! He also creates resources for Download Youth Ministry and enjoys encouraging other youth workers. Andy and his wife Melissa have two young kids (Maggie and Levi) and love serving in family ministry together at their church! If being a youth pastor wasn’t an option, Andy would most likely be a competitive eater or screaming in a rock band.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.