I’ve had the privilege of leading several Expedition teams in Europe, Central America and South America. There are a few things I wish I would have known and a few things I learned along the way so I figured it would be nice to share them with you, my fellow (and future!) trip leaders.
Let me start by saying, “You’ve got this, it’s going to be great!”
My Tips and Tricks
- Be flexible, plans change, go with the flow; when things change I’ve learned God is doing something even better. Your kids pick up on your emotions and frustrations so if you are flexible and positive they will be too.
- Get time with Jesus. Ask your host when is a good time for you to sneak away, off alone for a bit…don’t go too far…just far enough to have space for you and Jesus (it may be while your students are working…that’s ok, it’s more important that you model following Christ than working yourself to exhaustion. These trips can be tiring enough, without some good time with Jesus it will be even more exhausting.) Also without coffee it can be exhausting…it’s ok to ask for that (or bring some) too.
- Make space for your students to have time with Jesus. They need time with Jesus just like you do. Set aside 15-20 minutes in the morning for them to get some solo time and be sure to set aside ample time in the evenings for small group discussion. This is always my favorite part of the day with my team.
- Let your kids do it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing all the “heavy lifting” to model hard work and to ease the burden from your students. Let them serve! You will serve with them but let them do the big things. They will get great satisfaction from pushing through, working hard, and problem solving. Be their biggest cheerleader.
- Ask questions, take a posture of learning. In Young Life we have a culture of being gracious and patient with questions; it’s ok to ask your host about why things are the way they are or when things seem confusing (not in an accusatory or demeaning way but in a gracious way where you genuinely seek understanding). Your host will be happy to share with you more about their culture and will genuinely appreciate you wanting to know more. Don’t be shy with your questions.
- Invest deeply. Get to know your host, the community, your students, the culture. If you aren’t leaving with new friends you’ve missed one of the best opportunities that an Expedition can provide, the opportunity to love people and learn from them. Don’t miss it!
- Get quality time with your team. Regularly check in with your students (individually and corporately). Set aside time to hang out with each kid individually even if it’s just over a meal (make sure your other kids are within view!). Ask them questions and listen. This will help them to really process their experience.
- Journal. Write things down. Write down stories, ways God revealed himself, prayers, and names you want to remember. Even if you just write down simple bullet points it will be nice to be able to remember what God did when people inevitably ask “how was your trip?”
- Make it memorable. There is way more room for flexibility on an Expedition to get creative than there is on a traditional Young Life camp trip. Maybe tell your host you’d like to stop at a local grocery store and get a few new foods for your team to try (or have everyone pick out something interesting). Plan an extra ice cream trip. Surprise your team with an after work swim in the river. Have a silly dance off in your hotel. Your local host knows what is safe and appropriate, take advantage of their knowledge of the area and have fun!
Written by: Lauren Wallace