We are in that season of camps and mission trips. Many of our students have spent months or even the past year preparing for the trip. Inevitably though someone comes along last minute who “wants in.” We have all heard, “Could my friend come, I think this might help them get to know Jesus.” Philosophically, leaders stand in different places on this proverbial fence. I have a friend who allows space for such students and “has never had a problem.” While just the other day I spoke with a youth worker who deeply regretted taking a student he didn’t know on a recent trip.
You may have already made your decisions on this topic, but just in case you get that last minute “ask,” here are some things to keep in mind:
Beware Of The Shadow Mission:
What is the purpose of the trip you are taking? Stick to that mission and vision and don’t deter from it. The “shadow mission” is a peripheral mission we adopt along the way. So for example if you are hoping to use this as a catalyst to take students deeper, it is not the time to take an unchurched student hoping they will get “saved.” That’s a shadow mission and not the real “point.” Stay away.
Beware Of the “Only Time” Mentality:
This is not the “only time” a student will have to hear about the Lord or see Him in action. If it is then we serve a God who can’t live without us. You are right it might be the only time this student can experience this with YOU. However, it doesn’t mean the Lord will stop pursuing their heart. Get out of the way.
Beware of No Relationship:
Do you or another adult on this trip have a relationship with the student? If the answer is “no” I strongly suggest you say “no” to allowing them to attend anything that is not close to home. A student who doesn’t know you, has no reason to respect you, your ways or your rules. It becomes difficult and awkward when you have to deal with a difficulty a thousand miles from home with someone you don’t know.
Beware of the “Full Scholarship”
Make sure this student you don’t know well has invested in some way. The most tangible is financially. Ask them to pay something, even if it is small. This lets you know they want to be there as much as their friend says they do. One year we had a donor give the full amount ($300 a piece at the time) for 25 kids to go to camp. We signed up a bunch of students we didn’t know well. The day we left for camp 15 of them simply didn’t show with lame excuses as to why they couldn’t come.
Be AWARE Of The Trip:
Much of this decision has to do with the type of trip you are taking and how far it is from home. If you are having a summer lock-in, that might be the perfect opportunity to get to know students you have never met before. Perhaps, you take kids to a camp whose purpose is evangelism. Much of whether or not you bring kids you don’t know has to do with the type of trip.
We take students to an overnight camp that involves a 30 hour bus ride. We used to sign up friends of friends because it is a highly evangelical camp and the perfect opportunity to see hurting kids come to know the Lord. Then we had some issues on the bus rides with students we didn’t know. We realized our goal for camp was an “oomph” to reinforce what we were pouring into them already. Many students we took, dropped away when we came back from camp, even when we followed up. For them it was about the trip and the experience, for us it was about deepening relationships. Taking students we didn’t know to camp didn’t make sense.
Where do you stand on this topic?