Getting ready for a residential
As I write this, I’m ten days away from going on a youth residential. I co-lead a Scripture Union holiday called Curtains Up, a creative arts holiday for young people aged 12 to 17. I’ve being leading on the residential for 15 years, but I have to say that I haven’t got any better at preparation. Every year, the holiday creeps up on me and I realise I’ve not done half the things I’m meant to. As I look at the increasing pile of things to take with me – felt-tip pens, giant London Underground signs, toilet rolls (for the mummy game, obviously), two spare sleeping bags (for the young people who forget theirs, but don’t tell anyone until day three of the holiday) – I thought I’d explore a few things that might help you to be better at this than me.
Pray and get others to pray for you
Prayer seems the obvious thing to do, but often gets pushed to the bottom of the list when you’ve got tuck shops to buy or first-aid certificates to find. Make it a priority for you and your fellow leaders. Get together a dedicated band of people who will commit to praying for you during your residential (and before and after).
Play to your strengths
I share the overall leadership of the holiday with two other people and the three of us all have different skills. I am not good at admin, nor am I any good at the production side of creative arts (lights, sound, cables, electricity, that kind of thing), but I do get paid to write youth resources as part of my job, so that’s what I do. I write the spiritual programme and help to make sure that our team of amazing leaders have what they need to deliver it. Between the three of us, we pick off the things that need to be done.
Grow your leaders and delegate to them
Each year, we sit down as overall leaders and discuss how we can help all our team members grow in their leadership skills. How can we give more responsibility to those who are experienced? How can help those who have been on team for a few years to develop and not feel like they’re treading water? How can we provide appropriate training for young leaders and give them space to try those new skills out safely? If you try to do everything yourself, you’ll keel over (just look at Moses in Exodus 18), and if you don’t invest in your leaders, they won’t keep coming back.
Let your team know what they need to do beforehand, what they need to bring with them, what’s expected of them when they arrive, what you need them to take responsibility for… Make sure people have all the information they need to lead on the residential. Admittedly some of them won’t read any of the information before they get on site, but there might not be anything you can do about that, apart from badgering them before the holiday starts!
Make safeguarding a priority
How we welcome and treat young people at our residential speaks volumes about how much we value them. And making sure the environment is safe and secure is key to this. This applies both to our safeguarding policy and practice, and how we implement health and safety. Our safeguarding needs to be second to none, and our volunteers need to be trained regularly, no matter how long they have been serving. And we need to treat health and safety seriously and risk assess activities before the residential starts. For more help, go to our safeguarding pages.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and you’re bound to have other ideas of how we can get ready for residentials. Why not let us know on Facebook or Twitter?