More Than a Trip: The Do’s and Don’ts of Camps and Conferences

When I was 14, my favorite parts of summer were the trips I took with my youth group. Actually, I’m 32 and it’s still my favorite part of summer. Though my role has changed from teen to youth minister, it’s still a blast to pile into a van or charter bus and trek to a camp or conference. Over the years, I’ve realized there are some do’s and don’ts that will really help you have an awesome experience:

1. Don’t compare this year’s camp or conference to last year’s. It makes you sound all like:

Yes, maybe the tater tots were more crispy and the guy who led worship now has a fuller beard- but God wants to do new things in your life THIS summer. He has you at this retreat for a reason and wants to work on your heart now, not your heart last year.

Don’t spend your whole trip comparing. It makes the new folks feel like they’re having a second-rate experience and keeps you dwelling on the past.

2. Do have fun. Don’t prank.

Know the difference between fun and pranks. Fun builds community. Fun makes people feel great about themselves. Fun is leaving secret notes of affirmation on the bed of a friend who is homesick. Fun is (ahem) sliding a bar of dark chocolate into your youth minister’s backpack when she’s gotten four hours of sleep in the last three days because you and your friends have been giggling all night.

Pranks create victims that wonder why they were singled out. Pranks create a mess to be cleaned up. Pranks can make a good day bad and a bad day terrible. Create fun, not pranks.


3. Do Socialize. Don’t speed-date.

You miss out on the chance to make great friendships when your only focus is snagging a date. Yes, there are so many cute catholics of the opposite sex. Yes, the way that girl from Wisconsin says “God” is so cute and that boy from Florida is so much more mature than the boys in your town. But don’t be so distracted by a summer crush that you miss out on the many friends you could make.

4. Do drink a lot of water and eat your vegetables.

Veggies will improve your experience. Just trust me on this one.

5. Do put away your phone.

Yes, you can shoot your mom an occasional “I’m staying hydrated and haven’t broken any bones” text, but try leaving your phone in your room and be really present. Not just “I’m thinking about my next status update” present, but totally present to what’s happening around you.

Want to know something? Ask the people around you instead of Googling it. Want to connect with people? Don’t wait to find them on Facebook- smile and introduce yourself to the people in front of you. You don’t need media to be social. You just need people.

6. Do step out of your comfort zone.


Maybe you’ve never tried introducing yourself to someone, spoken up in a small group, or worshiped God in an open way. On the other hand, maybe if you always have a lot to say in small group or always the first to volunteer; try stepping back and listening once and while.

Don’t worry about what others are thinking. Don’t worry about what your friends at home might say. Sometimes it takes leaving the familiar behind to realize the different ways God is calling you. So let the spirit move you, trust God, and don’t be afraid to try something new.