Alive and Learning: Schedules and Discipline

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This summer, our Student Ministry program made the trek to Canal Fulton, Ohio for Alive 2009. Alive is a 4-day “Christian Music” Festival that involves popular CCM musicians and bands, speakers, workshops, seminars, camping, swimming and the opportunity to purchase nearly any popular “Christian Media” you could desire. This post is part of a series aimed at sharing my experiences during the week and what I learned through the process so that you might learn from our successes and failures.

Here we come to one of my least favorite posts in the series, yet what could be one of the most informative to share. Today we discuss discipline on the trip. Inevitably, the adolescents that you take on a trip such as this will find some way to break the ground rules that you lay down. This year for us, it happened when teens would shirk their responsibilities around camp in favor of going to concerts, would blow off a mandatory seminar, or would very publicly tear down another teen in the group. Here are a few things that seemed to help us out in these areas:

  • Confront your teens in love – The girl who was tearing down another girl in our group also happens to be this second girl’s older sister… and she holds a very low opinion of her sister. During a tirade where she was accusing her sister of being stupid, a couple of adults in our group (myself included) took to gently turning her away from the insults and looking at herself to see the very shortcomings she was accusing her sister of having. We at no point called her stupid, or cheapened her as a human being, but we pointed out that she made the same poor decisions and shared the same… less than stellar thoughts that her sister holds and does.
  • Remind your teens of the schedule – Your group will vary from ours, but we set up our schedule as follows: There are two seminar options available each day – all teens must attend one. Evening worship and speaker are mandatory for everyone. Be in camp for breakfast and dinner, this is mandatory. You are in a group that will be responsible for preparing a meal or two and for taking care of the campsite at least once this week, do it without complaining. Curfew is at 1am. Fairly simple, right? Well, after one day, one girl was interpreting that to mean that she could skip out on the evening speaker because she attended a seminar earlier in the day, and a handful of guys skipped out on not only dinner, but their responsibility to clean up the campsite and get water for that mealtime. We announced all these schedule elements at the beginning of the week, but failed to remind every day. We also figured out later in the week that we should text teens who had their cell phones to remind them if they had something coming up.
  • Explain the mandatory items – This is one area that we could use some work in. We did a fair job of explaining why some items (eating) were required, but everything else we seemed to almost fall back into a “because we said so” mode. Not that we uttered those words, but we seemed to do a poor job of explaining why we required them.
  • Talk to your teens when they mess up – Two separate occasions arose in which I had to talk to teens about their choices. One involved a mini-lecture about how they need to leave their phone on when away form the campsite so that we could reach them if we need to. One argued we never told them that, I countered that we had (and we had), and asked them to leave them on for the duration of the trip. They did. Until they died. But they made sure one guy in the group had a working phone on him. The second situation required me to speak with two of the more dominant personalities in the group about their constant efforts to be the center of attention that were undermining the authority of the adult leaders. I shared what I enjoyed about their personalities, and asked them to reign in the parts that were being detrimental to the group and the leaders. They did. Until the next day.

Discipline is a necessary evil in life. The goal should never be to punish, but to correct errors in judgment and potential dangers to the individuals and the group life. Make sure that your leadership team is on the same page about your procedure before leaving, and share that procedure with your teens so that they will not be surprised if you have to enact it.

Other Posts in This Series:
Alive & Learning: Going With the Flow
Alive & Learning: Connecting With Parents
Alive & Learning: Connecting With Students
Alive & Learning: Isn’t Everyone Here a Christian?
Alive & Learning: Touching Base With Your Group
Alive & Learning: If You’re Not Offended Yet…
Alive & Learning: Bringing It All Home