They’re trusting you with the lives of their kids.
It’s great that you spent the past month on the phone with the camp director, the point person for your mission trip, or the customer service rep at the water park. You’ve done a great job getting permission slips signed, multiple vans lined up, and a mix of Christian-enough-but-not-cheesy songs everyone will listen to on the drive.
Meanwhile, parents are handing over their kids to you.
The highlight video you’ll make at the end of the trip will surely be amazing. You’ll put it online and show it at youth group so all the kids who didn’t go this year will regret it. It could even be ammunition to use when someone in your church asks: “What do we pay that youth worker for?” or “Why did we let that volunteer talk us into buying a van?”
Again, don’t forget that parents will be turning over the care of their kids into your hands.
Think about that when you go grocery shopping on the trip and let the kids buy cans of whipped cream that they’ll undoubtedly consume directly out of the can. Or think about that when you let your students play reverse hide-and-go seek at the unfamiliar place you’re sleeping for the night—consider that two of them may secretly go off on their own to “hide-and-go-seek each other” while you’re focused on the game.
You’re not a big kid. You’re not an activities director. You’re not even “just” a youth worker. You’re a parent’s stand-in for that student on that trip.
Granted, you’re not the kid’s parent (unless that kid actually is your kid–which is your greatest joy or your worst nightmare). Depending on the character of the actual parent or guardian, this may be a great thing. You get to show your teenagers what a Christ-following adult looks like:
• Start out firm, but kind. Cut loose and show them your dance moves only after they already respect you as an adult—not to campaign for approval.
• Give every student a voice, especially the introverts. Privately challenge your extroverts to be leaders by doing this, too.
• Expect the best, offering grace for honesty or confession when the inevitable failure comes.
• Show them Jesus, and invite them to follow him—not to merely become more active in your youth group.
You’re sharp. You know this. So what’s keeping you from doing this?