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Going away to a Christian camp or on a residential is highly significant experience for 1000s of 11-18s every year. Even a single night away can bring a group of young people together, deepen their faith and make memories that will last a lifetime. For some, the chance to go away with friends from church enables them to choose faith in Jesus Christ for the first time.
There are many options when it comes to camps or residential trips with your young people, ranging from ones where you pull together everything for yourself, to weekends in a residential centre in dormitories to camping in fields. Each will appeal in different ways according to the churchmanship or theology in your context, the accommodation your young people are used to, how experienced your team of leaders are, and the finances and other resources available to you.
Below is a list of things that will help you plan a successful trip if its something you have never done before:
Do it together
If there is a church that already takes young people away or is looking to go away for the first time as well, consider going away with them. This might be a brilliant opportunity to work in partnership with a church or other organisation to cut down on administration, planning time, resources and cost. For more information about developing partnerships, click here.
Dont think you have to do something massive and complex for it to be a brilliant experience for your 11-18s: even 1 night away can be a brilliant experience.
Dont think you have to go miles away
Dont think that you have to drive for 3 hours before youre properly away. Sometimes there are brilliant places to camp or stay only 20 minutes away.
Make sure the residential you offer meets the needs of your young people
All work with 11-18s should be focussed around the needs of the young people in your care. For instance:
- If you have 10 young people who cannot sit still for more than 6 minutes, going to hour-long seminars is unlikely to help them have a great time, but maybe playing football or going to a practical music workshop will.
- If your group contains a few introverts, make sure you communicate with them when you expect them to be with the rest of the group (like for meals and teaching sessions etc.) and when they can choose to be alone.
- Young people with additional needs can feel that residential activities are not open to them. Be sure to converse with parents and carers and the young person themselves about how they could be included. For advice and guidance on how to include young people with additional needs on camps, email email@example.com.
Be sensitive about money
Some families will find it a struggle to send their children on camps or residentials. To alleviate this stress and to help everyone to come who would like to, be sure to consider
- Keeping costs as low as is reasonably possible by creating and sticking to a budget. Mark Tiddys website Youth Work Resource has a brilliant guide to helping you develop a budget: www.youthworkresource.com/residential-guide/reside... .
- Offering an instalment plan for parents to pay in weekly or monthly amounts: be sure to keep track of who has given you what money and when with a notebook or spreadsheet.
- Asking church to contribute to a fund that can help those who cant afford it to come.
Ask for what you need
Ask around in your parish or benefice for the things you need. Personal conversations with folks after the service on Sunday or over a cup of tea can often lead to people offering lifts, lending kit, coming to cook, leading sessions on things theyre passionate about (coaching football, crafts, teaching the bible etc.), giving financially to reduce costs, or baking for those late night conversations over hot chocolate and a piece of cake. Be sure to make a note of who gives you what so you can return things youve borrowed, tell them what happened whilst you were away and thank them. If its appropriate, why not give those who volunteered time or resources a card signed by all the young people that benefitted after youve returned?
It is in our youth that many of us receive the seeds of vocation or calling that will come to fruition in the future. Camps and residentials can provide a brilliant opportunity for 11-18s to explore what God might be leading them to do with their lives. For some camps or residentials it may be wise to develop a programme of teaching to help young people begin to discern their calling and to help them put this into action when they return home.
Camps and residentials expose 11-18s to different styles of teaching, worship and prayer than they may be used to, along with opportunities to deepen relationships with God, other young people and their leaders. All of this is good news for discipleship, especially when we are able to translate desire to learn more into our youth cells, Sunday services, youth congregations and youth clubs throughout the rest of the year.
Many hundreds of young people choose faith in Jesus Christ each year on summer camps and residentials, making the most of the committed work of churches up and down the country working with those young people. Our task when these young people come to faith is to help them connect to the people and provision that will help their faith flourish. This is often best achieved through things like small groups, youth congregations and Christian youth clubs
Recruit Enough Leaders
It is essential that you have enough leaders for the age and stage of your young people. For further information, consult your safeguarding policy or contact the RNG Team or the Diocesan Safeguarding team.
Complete a Risk Assessment
Undertaking any activity with children and young people can be risky. Risk assessments are a really helpful way of considering the risks of a camp or residential, and thinking through how to mitigate their effects. They are without a doubt documents that require serious attention, but they neednt be scary. An easy to complete form is available on our resources pages at lichfield.anglican.org/rng. Just click to visit the page and click on our Forms section to find it.
Have a pre-trip briefing
A few weeks before you head away, brief your young people and their parents / carers, covering things like:
- When you aim to leave and arrive.
- Emergency phone numbers.
- Checking that everyone has what they need according to the kit list.
- Introducing leaders to young people to parents and carers.
- Time for questions.
A briefing meeting neednt be a long, drawn out affair: 20 minutes over a cup of tea will do it, but it can really help put parents, young people and leaders at ease to know what is happening.
Plan for follow up
It can be hard coming back from a camp or residential for our 11-18s: theyve just spent a few days away with their friends, talking about following Jesus, praying, playing and worshipping together, and now they have to come back to normal life and their usual day-to-day struggles. This will be harder for some than others, so be sure to talk with those you take away before you come home about this, reminding them that its okay to feel a little low after returning home and that God cares about whats going on in the rest of life not just what happens on camp. Offer to pray for them there and in the following weeks, and encourage them to keep praying, too. For more information, see the section on praying for young people in Weeknight Youth Provision.Some young people will come to faith for the first time whilst youre away. This is of course hugely exciting, particularly when its young people we have worked with for years. To respond to this fantastic news well, it is essential that you know how you can connect new Christians into a community of people that can help them continue their discipleship journey and to discover more about Jesus Christ. You might consider things like:
- Buying them a Bible in a simple translation, something like the Good News Bible, or New Century Version. In particular, the Youth Bible (pub. Thomas Nelson) is a copy of the New Century Version with a series of short bible studies on issues relevant to 11-18s.
- Starting a small group for those that went on the camp around something like Christianity Explored or Youth Alpha.
- Connecting new Christians into an existing youth cell or bible study.
- Meeting with these new Christians on a regular basis to read the bible together. Why not read through the Gospel of Mark together and study it with some basic questions?
Additionally, a reunion event is often a good excuse to gather your group together. This could be as simple as 90 minutes of sharing memories / photos / video of what happened, playing games you played when you were away and thinking about how to link what happened at camp back to every-day life. This would also be the ideal time to give out details of next years camp.
There are many options for camps and residentials across the country. The list below is not exhaustive, but gives you options for your next camp / residential from options we have explored and would recommend.
Run your own event at Dovedale House our own retreat house for youth groups in Ilam in the Derbyshire Dales National Park is a great venue to run your own weekend away. The simple, cost-effective and cosy accommodation offered at Dovedale is a great option for a residential at any time of year and can host around 50 young people and their leaders.
Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage - Each year hundreds of young pilgrims from across the UK and Europe descend on the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk for a week of fun, with moments of profound worship, of challenge and of great encouragement in faith (from Walsingham website) During the week there are workshops, craft activities, drama, music workshops, a caf, a disco and of course, time spent at the Shrine itself.
Scripture Union SU run residentials and camps for children and young people aged 8-18 across the country throughout the year. Every event has its own theme, linking content to the bible and the story of Jesus Christ.
Spree Urban Saints run Spree at sites across the country for 8-15s. We have three Spree events reasonably close to us in Lichfield Diocese: one at RockUKs Frontier Centre in Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire; one at Forest Camp Activity Centre near Northwich, Cheshire, and another at Lenchwood Christian Centre, Evesham, near Worcester. Catering for a wide range of ages, the event is a weekend filled with sung worship and bible teaching, outdoor activities such as archery, canoeing, mountain-biking and climbing, along with cafes, football tournaments and a lounge for leaders. Depending on venue, there is a choice of indoor accommodation or camping with a choice of self-catering or being fully-catered.
Falcon Camps - Falcon camps run across the country and are for children and young people ages 8-18.
For a list of other Christian residential centres, check out Mark Tiddys website Youth Work Resource.
If you would like help to plan or run a residential, or help finding one that will support your children or young people, contact the RNG Team.
DeVries, M, Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why most youth ministry doesnt last and what your church can do about it, Downers Grove: IVP, 2008.
Shepherd, N., Faith Generation: Retaining Young People & Growing the Church, London: SPCK, 2016.