5 Best-practices for communicating the crucial details for your summer-trip adventures.
There’s one sure-fire way to frustrate and alienate the parents in your ministry—do such a poor job of communicating the details of your summer trips that they feel disconnected, uninformed, and nervous. Effective youth ministries build trust, and poor communication is the quickest way to undermine trust. So, we asked our team of youth ministry advisors—veteran youth pastors from all over the country—to tell us their “best practices” for trip communications…
1. Cover the Basics
Give all the details of departure and arrival times, where you’re going, expected return times, and so on. Use Twitter and/or Facebook to post updates on arrival times, or text them out. We also tell them the names of the adult leaders who’ll be going on the trip.
For every multi-day trip we do, I produce (months in advance) an FAQ packet that includes schedules, what to/not to bring, names of trip leaders, our study focus, permission slips, fee schedules, and so on. About four weeks prior to departure, we have a required meeting for students and parents or guardians. We’ll collect and notarize all necessary paperwork, do a live Q&A about the trip, collect final payments, reiterate send-home-able offenses, and lead families in a short devotion that’s themed for the event. Sometimes the “regular” parents will groan about this meeting because they’ve been to all the others, but they still come—and they ALWAYS appreciate the over-information.
- Here are five things that build trust with parents in our lead-up to a trip:
We Tweet and Facebook during retreats and trips—we post pictures, videos, encouraging words, and arrival times.
- I turn on a GPS tracker on our way home (glympse.com). This may sound invasive, but it really helps me communicate with parents where we actually are, and when to pick up their kids.
- Longevity is an underlying trust-builder. I’ve been at my church long enough that parents know where I live.
- Long-term adult leaders also make parents feel relaxed about our “shepherding” firepower.
- Students respect me and know I care for them—and parents hear about it. I do my best to be a fun guy, but I don’t want parents to wonder if I’m immature.
4. Anticipate Parents’ Top Concerns
On the day of our trip I give out slips of paper with my cell number and the event location’s number on fluorescent paper, so they have it handy in case they’ve already lost the information I gave out weeks before. And my parents usually seem more concerned with which students their child will be rooming with, not the adult leaders who will be with them. So I do my best to reassure them, especially the day we leave.
Jana Grant Snyder
5. Some Things Should Be Mystery, Some Things Not
Sometimes I can’t tell parents what leaders are going until I know what students are going. I could have 15 leaders sign up to go on a trip and only have 20 kids sign up. Then I have to go back and tell a bunch of leaders “Thanks, but no thanks.” I do not tell students (or their parents) who they’ll be staying with on the trip because it causes a lot of drama before we even get to our destination. I’ve had more grief from parents who say their teenager can’t go unless he/she’s rooming with so and so. So we make it standard to not tell them until we’re at our destination. It adds to the faith-building adventure of the trip—we just ask parents to trust us.
Looking to make a difference in a community, and in the life of your students? Check out Group’s Lifetree Adventures mission trips! Click here for more information, or you can call us at 800-385-4545. We’d love to talk!