Growing up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was involved in a very active youth group. Our leaders were constantly tending to our spiritual, personal and social needs. I appreciate the many efforts and sacrifices that were made to provide us with faith-building experiences that would benefit us for years to come.
Looking back, I can see that young adults are clearly at a difficult age range to work with. Knowing what will help them most is hard to predict, but good decisions can be made as we trust in the personal revelation we can receive while praying to God for help and wisdom. Being able to succinctly remember the highpoints of visiting Ephraim, Utah, as a teenager with my Church group, here are a few tips for planning an out-of-town youth group vacation.
1. Schedule Faith-Building Activities
The ultimate purpose of scheduling religious get-togethers and trips should always be to tend to the one as Jesus does, inviting the Holy Ghost to uplift and edify. Even when working with moody teenagers, it’s important to not shy away from providing experiences that will directly communicate religion. Even those who outwardly oppose such formalities may inwardly appreciate the spiritual opportunities presented.
Example: The most memorable experience I had on our trip took place in conjunction with a scheduled object lesson. Being blindfolded, we were required to hold tightly to a rope while going from point A to point B, following the helpful whisperings of one righteous voice and ignoring the deceitful temptations of another. I could eventually distinguish between voices, but not before having wrongly followed that of the deceiver and, as a consequence, having received two dabs of mud placed on my face. Standing at the end of the course and having someone gently wash away the dirt that I was unable to clean myself was one of the most emotional times in my life. The Atonement of Jesus Christ was nothing new to me, but in that moment I could feel the Holy Ghost so strongly testify to me of my need for the Savior.
2. Be Sympathetic to Various Needs & Concerns
In trying to provide for members of a diverse group, it’s obviously challenging–if not entirely impossible–to plan events that every single teen will want to participate in. But, you can make alternatives available that will help your youth be comfortable. If a high-energy, athletic game is being planned, try finding ways for those who are not so athletically-inclined to naturally participate: perhaps as scorekeepers, referees, and so on.
Example: During our trip, there were plenty of opportunities to be active, but it was also acceptable for those interested to sit on the sidelines and cheer on our comrades. There was also a good mix of activities, balancing being active and stationary, using strength and using smarts, encouraging socialization and encouraging alone-time for proper pondering.
3. Stay Within Your Budget
In wanting to give your youth everything positive they could ever want, it may be tempting to spend more than you can, or should, on a youth trip away from everyday life. Making elaborate and exotic plans may seem exciting, but staying within your group’s travel budget is more important than pretending your group is something it’s not. Encouraging youth to recklessly live beyond their means is a lesson we obviously shouldn’t pass on. We need to teach by example that being obedient and making-do with what we have is the best recipe for happiness.
Example: Our leaders wanted us to have a great time. With the option of attending the nearby Manti Pageant beautifully set in front of the Manti Utah Temple, traveling to Ephraim, Utah, provided us with a rich exposure to Church history. Our leaders had also considered going to another historically important place instead–Nauvoo, Illinois. With our group being situated just outside of Denver, a Utah trip was much more cost-effective and eventually settled on given our specific set of circumstances and finances. I don’t think our trip suffered one bit from being planned according to a proper budget.