This week on the blog we're looking at the top five excuses kids make for not going to camp. If you missed the first two, click here and here.
Part 1: My friends aren't going
Part 2: I don't have the money
Part 3: My Parents won't let me
Part 4: I have schedule conflicts
Part 5: I'm afraid of the unknown
When I first started leading Young Life almost twenty years ago, leaders typically had much closer relationships with the parents of their high school friends. In 1996, teenagers didn't own cell phones, so in order to contact them a leader had to call the home phone. This often resulted in conversations with parents.
One key in getting your high school friends to camp is to not only invest in a relationship with them, but also with their parents. Not many parents will quickly shell out hundreds of dollars to ship their kid off with someone they don't really know. Most parents would love to know you better, even if they have not made any effort to do so. If we want to take their children to camp, we must step out of our comfort zones and build relationships with moms and dads.
Below are a 7 keys to interacting with parents:
As a general rule, refer to them as Mr. or Mrs. Insert-Last-Name. I would always default to this, but exceptions can more easily be made if you're married, a parent, or over 25. If they give you permission to call them by their first name, go with that.
Make the Call
Calling communicates that you're a responsible adult, whereas sending a text message appears less confident and more adolescent. If you're not confident in making those phone calls, ask your area director to set you up with a practice call with an adult on the YL Committee.
Parents may call your phone and get your voice mail. Will the greeting they hear lead them to trust you more or think of you as irresponsible? When they stalk you on social media, what pictures will they see? When a parent snoops in their teenager's text messages, what will the texts you wrote to their child communicate about you?
Know Your Stuff
Parents will want details about camp. Do you have a fundraising plan? Do you know what their child will need to pack? Do you know how to describe a typical day at camp, or the sleeping and bathroom situations?
Predict Concerns, Prepare Answers
Last week I called a dad to ask if his son could come to camp. He told me that he couldn't trust his son to be away from home and needed to keep him on lock down this summer. I promised him that his son, other than using the bathroom, would most always be with a leader. I explained our value of leader-centered camping: we're not just chaperones letting kids roam around, but adult friends seizing every opportunity to share life with our friends.
Describe your hopes for the trip and for their child. Tell them about your own experience and what influenced you in becoming a YL leader. Speak to the ways you have seen camp impact kids in the past and the potential you see in their child.
Know When To Stop Pushing
Getting their kid to camp is not worth hurting your relationship with them. We're in these relationships for the long haul, not just for a week of camp. Respect them enough to allow them to make the decision. After all, they are the parent, we are not. Here's one of the most honest posts I've ever written on this blog and it speaks more to this issue: "The Danger of Preying."
Bottom line, build relationships with BOTH teenagers and parents.
If you have any thoughts to add, email me here. -Drew Hill