DIY Spring Break

In retrospect, I can totally understand why my friends wanted to kill me. I’ve never been a detail-
oriented person, and I really should have at least gotten an address.

It was 10:30 pm in late March, 2000. I was 19 and on my first collegiate Spring Break. 15 hours
and 1,000 miles ago, four friends and I had piled into an early 90s-model Toyota Camry to begin
the drive to Jacksonville, FL. We were on our way to visit my friend Amber, whom I’d met last
summer at my last ever Youth Group Summer Camp.

She’d invited me to visit, and my four friends decided Spring Break in Florida sounded very collegiate of us.

In the days before cell phones and GPS, in the days before Printed Map Quest Directions, we
followed our Road Atlas all the way to Jacksonville. My friends turned to me to find out how to
get to Amber’s house.

Which, as I previously mentioned, is totally logical, except that I hadn’t gotten any directions
from Amber.

I was pretty sure Amber had given me her dad’s phone number and that she would
be meeting us there (she usually lived in Orlando with her mom).

So they were understandably grumpy when we pulled off to find a pay phone (no cell phones,
remember!) to call Amber’s dad. And then wait at a Taco Bell for him to (hopefully!) get home, or
something, because he didn’t answer.

We all agreed that this was not my brightest moment.

Eventually, we got ahold of Amber’s dad, a biker who didn’t know we were coming, but who
graciously opened his home to five strangers. Amber arrived the next day, and we ended up
having a pretty amazing Spring Break. We even all made it back in one piece.

What strikes me about that trip is how unprepared we were.

Five kids between 19-21 who had no idea what we were doing. We made plenty of mistakes and dumb decisions. But we survived, we had fun and have hilarious stories to tell for the rest of our lives.

After that trip, no journey ever scared me. I was ready for anything. And even if I forgot some
little things – like say, the directions,

—I knew we could figure it out.

I see a lot of young adults who have come through the Youth Group model of church like I did
who lack this initiative. For all the wonderful things Youth Group taught me, it didn’t teach me

I learned – to my detriment – that adults would always be there to plan for me.

That I could show up and consume rather than produce. I could reliably assume that at least thrice annually I’d get a weekend or summer camp. My parents would pay for it and then I would just go and have fun. Food, transportation, content, games, all planned for me.

I see that experience shaping young adults in the Church. I served briefly as a young adult/
college pastor, and the main complaint I received was that I didn’t play enough activities. When
is the Christmas party? Is there a ski trip in our future? Can you take us on a retreat?

I understand that those are fun. I love parties. I throw lots of them. Who doesn’t love to fall down
a mountain for two or three days? And I cherish any chance I have to get away with friends for a
few days.

But if you’re over 18, there’s no reason you can’t plan those things yourself. You’re an adult.

Don’t wait for the Church to plan your social calendar. Stand up, take the initiative and plan.
Find three or four other young adults at your church and do a road trip somewhere crazy. Plan a
ski trip. Find a retreat center somewhere and get away for the weekend. Invite someone in your
church to come share with you for the weekend.

Or better yet, share your own stories with each other.

Don’t wait. Now is the time to grow, to figure these things out for yourself. You can do it. You’re
an adult. These things aren’t beyond you.

Are you going to make mistakes? Sure you are. But that’s good. You’ll learn from your mistakes.
You’ll grow. And eventually, everyone will be coming to you, asking you to plan their stuff for
them. And you’ll get to say—

No, I think you need to do this yourself.

Have you ever planned your own adventure? Or challenged others to do the same? 

[Photo: john millar, Creative Commons]

  • M. Joshua Cauller

    Ah! I remember making my first several road trips like this one. Great story and reminder that it’s good to take risks, step out and go on adventures! I kinda miss it now that I’m 30, have to commute an hour, and don’t look forward to driving for long periods of time. But there’s something grand about just driving really far to meet friends.

    Thanks again.

    • JR. Forasteros

      Hm… I wonder what other kinds of non-road-trip adventures you could create? How’s your backyard? We just built a firepit. Which takes me back to my boy scout days. :D

      • M. Joshua Cauller

        Awesome! Yeah. We have just enough room for our fire pit! But this summer, my wife wants to go camping a lot. Which I think I might be able to tolerate… :)

  • kate

    I was in 4-H as a kid and I learned more about responsibility there than in church…

    • JR. Forasteros

      Yeah… I’m sad that the Church doesn’t do a better job equipping us for adulthood. So many other orgs do such a better job.

  • Logan81

    I started going on my own adventures in my mid-20′s. Some have been amazing (like climbing a glacier in Iceland), and some have been horrendous (like getting food poisoning in Anchorage, AK). I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world, though. I’ve learned so much about the world through them all, and learned that I’m capable of so much more than I ever thought possible. The world really is an awesome place. :)

    • JR. Forasteros

      Dude. Let me know the next time you’re coming through Ohio!!

      • Logan81

        I’ve honestly never been to Ohio before, but if I ever go, I’ll let you know!

  • Deanna Dziedzic

    As a 25 year old youth leader in a church where there is very little student initiative, I feel like I shoulder the burden for their fun. I have to make thing exciting and have movie nights at my house and plan game days and make our retreats explosive and it’s overwhelming. The joy I get from serving is slowly fading away and it’s a shame. I really appreciate this article and the idea that we as youth leaders need to allow the students to take ownership of their own programs. It’s definitely time to rework my ministry and kick some teenage butts into gear! Thanks for sharing your story!

    • JR. Forasteros

      Thanks for sharing, Deanna! I was in the same boat as you when I was a youth pastor. Once I started having my youth take charge, it became a LOT more fun. I had three seniors plan a retreat (under my supervision, of course). The day we left, I had them show up about 4 hours before departure time, so we could get everything ready. I even made them come to Sam’s Club with me to do the shopping. They were blown away by how much work went into a weekend. They told me that they’d previously thought I just showed up with them and took them.

      I wasn’t sure how to take that, but either way, they learned a lot and the retreat was great. The students loved it even more because some of their own did it all.

      Keep up the good work. Let me know if you need to workshop some stuff!

  • kirsten oliphant

    My husband is a youth pastor, so this makes me want to make sure we are teaching responsibility to the kids. I don’t think this experience goes to all youth groups, but I love the challenge this gives me when I think about them. And also, my own life. I like adventures–making my own especially. :)

    • JR. Forasteros

      Hey Kirsten!

      I actually had my seniors plan a weekend one year (with my guidance, of course). Not only did they do a great job, but they gained a new appreciation for my job. Apparently, they’d all thought I just sort of winged everything :D

  • Grace Elizabeth

    I LOVE this, but can I challenge the ‘If you’re over 18″ part…because I’m not, but with {incredible} supportive adults around me, I am still able to get up off my bum and plan, to put together, to arrange, to get creative and DO the things I want to do, and to enable others to join in! There isn’t an age limit on this, the sooner we start, the better! I was raised in youth group, I have had things done for me, but my parents do children’s work and I’ve always had the opportunity to get involved, I think more opportunity for younger people to get involved needs to be created, have some expectation of what your young people can do!

    • JR. Forasteros

      Hey Grace!

      I 100% agree with you. The earlier we can start this stuff the better. I just wanted to protect myself legally ;)

  • Ellie

    My church didn’t have an active youth group (we rarely took trips). My group of friends, “the usuals”, planned most of our fun adventures on our own, beginning in high school after we had driver’s licences. I credit our parents for this by having “go for it” attitudes and encouraging this independence. It was more than road trips to Chicago, Arizona, and World’s of Fun (twice). It was also epic nerf wars with 8 pages of rules, and tubing trips down the creeks in our backyards. Ultimately I believe the responsibility to teach responsibility comes from the home. The church can facilitate this process and provide opportunities, but ultimately it’s up to parents to let kids have adventures that may mean taking risks and making mistakes.

    • JR. Forasteros

      Yes. I love this!