How to process your students’ experience with them

When your group of students are done with their YES trip, they may be experiencing lots of different thoughts and feelings. The process of going back to their normal routine is commonly known as re-entry. Re-entry affects each individual differently. Some may have no problem getting back into the swing of things, whereas others may struggle a bit more. Things like disorientation and restlessness are very common when getting readjusted. Below are some ideas on how to care for your teens after their trip.

LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN.

If you have just one debriefing session, try this. On paper or in person, in a big group or one on one, ask your YES trip participants these basic questions:

  1. How was your trip?
  2. What was the best thing about it?
  3. What was the hardest part for you?
  4. What did God teach you?
  5. What would you like to do about it, and when?

One good way to encourage participants to take those next steps is to have them write themselves a          letter reminding them what they experienced and what they intended to do about it. Provide some designated time to compose these letters. Then collect them, with a promise that you’ll mail the letters back to them in six months.

Encouragement and ideas for continuing to serve your community:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

  1. Live Differently: Only you can determine if you will continue the amazing journey of growing nearer to the Lord and of being a blessing to others. For this to happen, you must take on that responsibility and be intentional about your continuing journey.
  1. Invest in your community: You can be a great encouragement to the people you met and the ministry sites you visited by keeping in touch with them. Write letters, send birthday cards, pray for them, and visit.
  1. Take Risks—Stay Out of Your Comfort Zone: Decide right now that you are not just at the end of your short-term service-learning experience, but actually at the beginning of a new     ministry. Plan to live in a way that will continue to stretch you beyond the level of faith you now have. Put your trust in God. Seek to hear his voice and to obey and put into practice all that you have learned.

How to help nurture your teens’ desire to serve:

  • Gather names and numbers of the ministry sites your teens visited and challenge them to visit consistently (whether it be weekly or monthly).
  • Facilitate discussions where the teens can come up with projects that get them connected with people and/or building relationships with the poor. This will be helpful in taking their trip experience to the next level and making it real in their everyday lives. This type of service activity can take place at a shelter, soup kitchen, food bank, or on the streets.
  • Assist teens in arranging a meeting where everyone can bring trip pictures and make a photo album (in traditional or scrap book style).
  • Have your teens write letters to some of the places they visited. The letters could include things that have happened since they got home and how the trip overall has changed/is changing their lives and/or their worldview.
  • Before too much of the excitement created by the trip dies down, present the idea of starting a prayer group. It can be a time when the youth gather and pray for those who they have met.
  • Teens can make name cards for each of the people on the trip experience who impacted their life and put them all on a board. Let them take time to tell a short story about that person and then the group can pray for them together.
  • If you do have YES ambassadors, encourage them to keep your group updated with YES events and trips. If they are interested in planning more trips, support their ideas and help them along the way if needed.
  • Be sure to tell your students that they are appreciated and loved! Keep an ongoing dialogue about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings after the trip.

YES Ambassador Program:

After their trip, there may two appointed teens from your group that are now ambassadors for YES. This would mean that these teens stay in touch with trip leaders and may assist in some YES fundraising and communicating about upcoming events. They may be participating in monthly phone conferences about service activities and connecting to the poor in their communities. Be sure to encourage your ambassadors of the importance of their role in YES!