Destination Unknown Recap

2 weeks ago we took a handful of teens on our annual Destination Unknown trip. This is an event that I inherited when I stepped into ministry at Trinity, and it dates back years. If you are unfamiliar at all with the concept of a Destination Unknown trip, we encouraged students to sign up for a trip that knew nothing about except for the dates and times we would be leaving and returning. Last year (the first time I ever ran such a trip) we did a single overnight and stayed relatively close to home (Canton and Columbus). This year we ventured out a little further.

Where we Went
This year we traveled from Amherst to Parma for some bowling, then down to Canton for laser tag. After grabbing dinner at Steak & Shake (and picking up food for the weekend, since winter weather prevented me from being able to the day before we left) in Youngstown we trekked across state lines to Pittsburgh, where we had a suite downtown. Once settled in, we had students share their high and low points of the past year, and how they had seen God at work over the past 12 months. There was a lot of game-playing and chatting late into the night, and then it was off to sleep. Our second day involved playing Quelf until lunch, sightseeing around the city and in Homestead, dinner at Primanti Brothers and a trip up the incline to take in the view of the city after dark. Simply beautiful. There was more discussion about God’s involvement in students’ lives, and another late night (many of them were up until 3am). We left for home the next morning, and just beat a small winter storm out of the ‘Burgh.

The Drawbacks
I am still not certain that the Destination Unknown format is a big enough benefit to continue running it. I am the first to state that we need to make sure there is room for fun, and it certainly gives us a different environment to interact with our teens, but I fear that there is too much of an expectation for fun and not for spiritual growth on the part of our teens. I also believe that the cost this year was a big roadblock for several teens who did not go, despite letting many of them know that we could help with money should they need it. (This gave us a small group to work with, almost half of what we had last year). And we only had one male student on the trip.

The Positives
Our teens really love to play laser tag, and they had a blast in all of the fun things we did. The environment of the trip really did encourage a few of our teens to really open up. In fact, one shared so much more than they were planning to that they were not sure what to do after they were done talking. It did allow me to spend the next hour listening to them and connecting with this student at a deeper level than I have been able to in the past 18 months. The trip also allowed us to connect with one or two students who we do not normally get to interact with outside of a formal ministry setting, and allowed them to connect with students they don’t normally see more than a couple of hours in any given week. Ultimately, I do feel that God used this time to give those who went a new experience where they could see a real community of believers at work.

Though the trip was full of positive experiences, connections, and students seeing God at work in each other, I am still not sold that Destination Unknown is the best event for our group. I plan to spend the next few months discerning whether or not we will renew this tradition next year. If we do not, it will not be because this year failed. Though I cannot classify it unequivocally as a success, it was certainly not a failure. No, if we do not utilize Destination Unknown next year it will be because God has something better in store for us.