Mama Caro

Stephanie "Mama" Caro's humorous, straightforward style keeps her busy presenting at conferences, training events, camps, mission trips, retreats, churches, etc. She is Senior Consultant for Ministry Architects and author of "Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches" and "99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker." Her next book, “Ten Solutions (to Ten Common Mistakes Small Churches Make)” comes out in 2015. Stephanie is a contributing author to several ministry resources in addition to her regular column “Smaller Church Youth Ministry” in Group Magazine. Stephanie and her husband, Steve, live in Houston, TX.

(Part 2 in a series of 7. Check? daily? for? another? insight into? brilliant moves I’ve made? over 30 years in ministry to students.? Imagine, each day’s story? gets dumber from here.)

We were some hot stuff, our Sr. High Youth Mission Team. We went to Habitat every 4th Saturday of the month so? we had MAD skills. So hot, we’d traveled as far as our UM Children’s Home on a district mission trip to do gardening and put up some kinda storage unit! We were BAD. (Which was good and a relevant term back then? thanks to MJ)? ?

Then we got wind of this new thing: youth groups all over the country had begun? going on trips to do? home repair stuff, wheelchair ramps, roofing, etc. Sounded studly to our group so we decided? we wanted to ride the wave of this new thing.? (It was the early 90’s) (don’t roll ur eyes at me)

The ensuing? madness was no one’s fault but the leader’s – me. We didn’t need? a fancy? youth mission? organization? because we knew as much as they did, so? let’s save? money. I found a small home-grown organization? running home repair? camps? out of their church.? We? set off in the “caution: church van”,? power tools in the back, ready to build us somethin’.

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Let me cut the story short and? bullet point the epic fails:

1) MOST STUDENTS (and one certain leader) WILL OVERESTIMATE THEIR SKILL LEVELS ON THE INFO FORM: On a scale of 1-4 (being the highest), ? I think we averaged? ourselves a 4.5 in all areas. Thus we were left ALONE? at? a mobile home site to build a wheelchair ramp, install? a door,? and remove/replace several rotting foundation boards under the trailer. ? Epic fail #1.

2) NO SITE COACH OR NO WORK DESCRIPTION IS A BAD THING:? I never thought to ask if there would be site supervisors (like at Habitat) to tell us what to do, where to cut, and do the icky things we didn’t want to do.? I also didn’t ask if there would be any instructions on how we were to do what we were assigned to do.? Epic fail #2.

3) DON’T BE A SMART ALECK WHEN HOLDING A? POWER SAW: I was terrified? by this point into the trip. We were in WAY over our heads and I had no idea what I was doing. I was scared to let the youth use the power saw since none of us had ever really? done it unsupervised before. I lectured them on the safety of it all, turned the saw on to? demonstrate…and sawed through the power cord. Epic fail #3.

4) DON’T USE A CAR JACK TO PROP UP THE? ENTIRE BACK CORNER OF? A DOUBLE-WIDE:? One of those? rotting foundation boards wouldn’t budge from up top so the only way to get at it was to shimmy underneath the trailer and pull it out from there.? The trailer sat too low due to the rotting and needed to be propped up thus our decision to use the church van’s? car jack. Being the leader, I was quickly elected to shimmy into the dark, creepy place. The car jack didn’t break till after I’d already scooted? back out. Epic fail #4 (use of the car jack). Epic success? for God’s grace on an idiot? youth leader.

#5) IS A WHEELCHAIR RAMP? SUPPOSED TO BE AT? A? 45 DEGREE ANGLE?? Thank God the mud puddle at the bottom of the ramp stopped the forward momentum? of the homeowner as she took her first ride on the ramp.? Epic fail #5.

Oh, and I was the only adult on this trip and on the crew. Guess that’s #6.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Unless you REALLY know what you’re doing on a mission trip – use the pro youth mission organizations. They’re worth what you think you could do cheaper yourself. I’ve tried several? and am a raving fan of Group Workcamps Foundation.

Tomorrow:? An event? referred to only as? “Oh, THAT Halloween.”


PS-Thanks, Krystie, for reminding me what years of therapy? had blocked out.?

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  • Don Steward says:

    Stephanie, I am enjoying your transparency in these postings. This one above was one of my fears when our new Senior Youth Pastor showed up a few years ago, telling us we would “save money” by running our won mission trips. Thankfully, his persistence with this topic was combined with patience as he tried to convince us. A few Group Workcamps later, he now agrees the experience is far better with GWF than on our own! P.S. I kept reading thinking, “what else could happen?” 🙂

  • Krystie says:

    Wow! I only remembered the power cord thing until I started reading. How wonderful that you were so dependent on God’s grace even back then! 🙂 (that’s just a teensy hint of sarcasm).

  • Beth says:

    Oh my gosh!! I remember this trip…Satellite Beach Fl!! What about the demolishing of the old she with the sledge hammers…that was a great stress relief. I love the blog!! AH…memories.

  • Mama Caro Stephanie says:

    Oh, Don – it gets worse.

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