Q: The last time I planned a youth retreat, we had a young person who had completely unacceptable behavior throughout the weekend. It disrupted the entire event, but he had to remain at the retreat center as we didn’t have enough volunteers to take him home and his parents wouldn’t come to pick him up.
What’s the best thing to do if something like this ever happens again?
A: It’s always a shame when one young person spoils things for the whole youth group. There are two steps you can take though to help ensure that if this does happen again, you can deal with it effectively.
1. Have A Youth Behavior Policy In Place
I’m not sure if you already have a youth behavior policy – if not, get one put in place for the retreat ASAP. This would detail some examples of unacceptable behavior so that both your youth and their parents know what’s expected of them.
You’re not going to be able to put together an exhaustive list, but some rules that you may wish to include would be things like:
- No alcohol or drugs
- Boys aren’t allowed in girls’ rooms and vice versa
- No pornography
- No weapons
- No violence
This policy should be provided to both the young people and their parents, also giving an idea of what consequences can be expected. Some behaviors may have a zero tolerance policy, so discovering a weapon would have an automatic consequence of the youth being sent home.
Other behaviors may result in warnings, such as a verbal warning, then a reminder warning, then being sent home. This gives the young person an opportunity to correct their behavior and shows that you’re fair in how you deal with situations.
Read this post for more ideas on how to deal with youth behavior and putting the policy in place. In particular, make sure both the young people and their parents sign an agreement to the behavior policy in advance of the youth retreat. This means they know for certain what will and won’t be accepted.
2. Have A Youth Removal Team
As you mentioned in your question, you had no way of taking the young person home following their unacceptable behavior. It can be hard getting enough volunteers to help with a youth retreat in the first place, so you often can’t spare any to take a young person home, particularly as this might mean that you’d have unsafe ratios.
The solution to this problem is to have a youth removal team in place beforehand. This would consist of two or three volunteers who aren’t at the retreat, but who are on call to come to the retreat center in the event that you need them to take a young person home.
For child protection, we’d recommend having two people take the young person home, at least one of which should be the same sex as the youth.
Having this team in place will help ensure that there is minimal disruption to the youth retreat and means that the rest of your youth group don’t miss out on an exciting weekend due to the behavior of just one person.
Question: Have you ever had to send a young person home from a youth retreat due to their behavior? How did you deal with it? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.
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