Simple Tips for Hosting a Safe Youth RetreatBasic guidelines for a safe youth function.
Tyler Charles | posted 2/14/2012
Youth retreats can provide powerful, life-changing moments for students. If nothing else, retreats can be a lot of fun. But youth retreats can also expose a church (or even the students themselves) to unique risks that aren't typically part of youth ministry. Before hosting a youth retreat, it's important to understand the potential risks and to prepare accordingly.
• Get Help. Depending on the expected turnout, make sure you have enough staff members and/or volunteers to safely supervise the event. Requiring students to register for the event in advance will help you gauge how many supervisors are necessary.
• Check Backgrounds. Run criminal background checks on all staff members and volunteers. It's also a good idea to require all volunteers and youth leaders to attend your church for at least six months before allowing them to help with any youth events.
• If It Could Get Dangerous, Don't Do it! Kids may be drawn to risky or sensational activities, but consider the risks before planning any events, stunts, or competitions that could get out of hand—putting kids at risk, and potentially placing the church in legal jeopardy.
• Use Agreements. Require students to fill out an Activity Participation Agreement that includes information like emergency contact information, food or medical allergies, and other pertinent information. Require signatures from all parents or guardians if the participant is under 18.
• Discipline Plan. Make sure your adult leaders know how to handle disciplinary situations—including when they need to be enacted and exactly how to do so. Be sure to communicate these measures to the students in advance—so they are aware of the consequences before they break the rules.
• Enact Boundaries. Students sometimes develop an attraction to an adult leader. Be wary of any students exhibiting flirtatious behavior. Discuss this possibility with adult leaders in advance, and be cautious about adult leaders spending too much time with students of the opposite sex—especially in a one-on-one setting.