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General Ministry
Leneita Fix

Leneita has been involved in youth or family ministry for over 24 years serving in rural, suburban and urban settings, camps, small and large churches and non-profits. She has authored or co-authored several youth ministry books, including Everybody’s Urban Understanding the Survival Mode of the Next Generation among others. Leneita is the ministry and training coordinator for BowDown Church, co-founded a coaching and training organization called Frontline Urban Resources (everybodysurban.org) and lives with her amazing husband John and four children in Florida.

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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?

4 COMMENTS

  • Matthew says:

    I am in a much smaller context than most of the people who read/write this blog, so it’s likely much different for me, but I usually allow their friends to come as long as they are registered by the well-announced due date (usually a month or so out from the event). We even promote some events as “the opportunity to invite a friend to hear about Jesus”. Even if the kids have no relationships with our leaders, I’ve found that it’s a good way to challenge the youth group student who brought them to watch over them and make sure they are getting the most out of the experience. I try to limit the events that we do that would require us to say “no” in the first place – more things that are accessible, because I rarely want a student to miss an opportunity to hear the Gospel. I also never want to discourage our students from inviting their friends.

    • Leneita Fix Leneita Fix says:

      Matthew, It sounds like you do have the space to get to know the students if they “sign up” on time. I think this is key. It’s important to have the space to get to know students and see if after the fact they can grow in the Lord somewhere. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Steve says:

    I’m usually all for students asking friends on trips. For most trips I don’t mind. This is my first year at a new church and one thing that I’ve encountered regarding camp is that I have 2 out of my 26 spots for camp filled by previous church families’ kids who live out of state and are coming to camp with their friends. Usually this isn’t a big deal, but I also have 8 kids who are regulars to our ministry that may not be able to come to camp with us because of out of state friends who I would rather them spend time getting involved and connected with their local youth ministries.

    Saying no isn’t always a bad thing. Often it shows the students who are involved in your ministry the importance of the time you have to spend with them and the priority of the relationship that you want with them.

    Needless to say, there will be some guidelines given next year for who gets priority to camp.

    • Leneita Fix Leneita Fix says:

      We had to do the same thing Steve. There were students who were always part of what we are doing that were getting pushed out for those who just wanted to “experience” camp. We had to give priority to those we had relationships with because of limited space.

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