Over the years, we’ve seen some amazing examples of how God has redeemed even the worst youth trips away – we documented some of these stories in March’s Resident-Hell article and here’s another example of a positive outcome that a youth worker recently sent in:
As the young people arrived to this particular weekend, we noticed Tommy straight away, his rap music blaring out through the headphones that didn’t move from his head. His attitude and swagger was evident for the entire weekend and nothing seemed to be of interest to him.
On the final session, if we're being honest, we'd all given up trying to engage with Tommy, we were just pleased that he had actually turned up and was sat with the rest of the young people. As the leader began to share, Tommy began to nod off and by the end of the talk, he seemed to be fast asleep! Typically, as the response time started, he woke up and walked into the kitchen, closely followed by a friend. I assumed he had left the room to escape what was happening in the main session and to moan about his nap having been interrupted. However, when a leader went to investigate, Tommy’s friend exclaimed in a slightly puzzled manner, ‘Tommy wants to give his life to Jesus…can you do the prayer thing with him?'
The leader encouraged the friend to pray with Tommy, and led them both through it. Suddenly a smile appeared across Tommy's face, for the first time all weekend, his swagger dissipated as he walked back into the main room. Tommy got everyone's attention and went on to say, 'I just want everyone to know that I've asked Jesus into my life and my life will never be the same.' This was met with dropped jaws and tears from the youth leaders, and a round of applause from his fellow young people!
What did we learn? Just because a teenager might look like they've nodded off, don't underestimate what God is doing!
However, sometimes things go wrong without a happy ending. As the saying goes, comedy is just tragedy multiplied by time. So, with wonderful hindsight, here are some vaguely amusing residential mishaps sent in by youth workers across the country:
On a youth camp, I suggested a fun afternoon game involving jumping over an airbed while sliding down a hill. It was fun to start with but a mistimed jump resulted in a broken collar bone!
I pulled a J-turn as we were leaving a residential, successfully spinning the fully loaded minibus 90 degrees. In the process, I hit a young person who’d run over thinking we were leaving without them (they were fine)!
A Driver, The North
I was a leader on a week long summer camp and, on the first day, one of the lads fell in the sand dunes and dislocated his knee. He nearly broke my hand too (squeezing so hard in pain!)... When we eventually found a phone signal, the paramedics clambered over the dunes to get to us, arriving all hot and bothered with the stretcher. They took one look at him (fairly big lad) and called in the air ambulance! In the meantime, he got gas and air while they reset his knee, I got my hand back...
On the last day of our summer camp, almost everyone came down with a sick bug. It was the hottest day of the year and the air conditioning on the coach home was broken. The windows were sealed shut and we ran out of sick bags so had to use see-through zip lock food bags. The journey took nearly eight hours and needless to say has gone down in our church history as the worst residential ever.
We had a nightmare weekend away to the New Forest. It was very stormy and after a terrible journey, we were just settling into our cabins when there was a power cut. We stayed that night but a tree had fallen on more power lines so we packed up and went home, having given everyone a totally unforgettable weekend away in the New Forest!
One of my young lads found himself on the bottom of a bundle pile and cracked two ribs. In the end, it wound up being a really positive experience as this 16 year old boy felt really loved and cared for by all the youth leaders and staff at the event.
We went away in January a few years ago and got hit by a massive frost. All the pipes froze so we couldn’t flush loos and the heating broke. We had booked archery, so the group were shooting with frozen arrows and hitting frozen iced-up targets. We definitely grew close as a group that weekend!
We’d love to hear your experiences – please do get in touch and remember: a bad youth trip away does not make us a bad youth worker!
Listen below to hear Ruth Jackson discuss nightmare residentials on Premier Drive with Loretta Andrews