We have just this week returned from another epic adventure known as our senior trip or as we call it in Canada our grad trip. It is our second year of what we hope to be many of celebrating those students who finished their tenure in our youth ministry and giving them an amazing time and encouraging them on their future endeavors. Our Church is 30 minutes South of Vancouver B.C. and we decided to take our grads this year to Disneyland, and I can say after debriefing the trip, it was a success beyond what we could have imagined. Here a few of the reasons we did it.
The Dangling Carrot: We started the senior trip tradition last year with a bus charter to San Francisco and Six Flags which was a great time and the students involved had a blast. The trip is the end, it’s the prize and in many cases a bit of a carrot that we dangle that keeps our grade 12′s from becoming infected with senioritis and leaving mid-year. Knowing that the trip is coming, that it’s an incredible experience, and that its well worth going on meant that this year we had a huge percentage of seniors finish the year out. Having seniors stick around means that we had more older students being active leaders to the younger ones and being great spiritual role models to them as well.
Creating a team: The Church does not pay a dime for trip, we take a deposit to cover the flight cost and the students then have to fundraise the money themselves. This year we put ads out to the church offering to do any job necessary by donation. The students worked hard, worked together and watched the donations roll in. They served the church, helped seniors, walked old ladies across the road, dug holes, trimmed trees, weeded gardens, and they did it all together. It took two months, but they raised enough that all of them including their small group leaders and Youth Pastor (wink) could go for free. The Church loved it, the students bonded and connected before the trip and on it.
Bridging the Gap: Getting students to connect into college ministry is tough, and we recognize this. Each year we have several hand picked members of the college ministry team not only come on the trip, but be a part of the fundraising process as well with the hope of building some meaningful relationships. I feel that this year more than last that having the group come together so tightly will allow a great opportunity to land and grow in our college ministry. It is unfortunate how many students graduate their faith after high school and our heart is that we feel we can foster a scenario where that is less likely to happen as they more successfully make the transition into the next phase in ministry.
As a Youth Pastor, watching students grow in their faith is a blessing and being able to be a part of the process from grade 7 through to graduation is unbelievable. We place a high value on celebrating those students who finish youth well, and are seeing the younger students take notice and get excited about their opportunity to do the same. Our senior trip, while on the surface might seem to be solely for fun, is really a strategic move to build into the future of our students that they don’t leave their faith after high school.
Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.