Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tips on Winter Events: When to Cancel

The longer you are in youth ministry, the more you will have to make that hard decision whether to cancel an event or trip due to bad weather. (You might have to cancel an event due to other circumstances, but we won't get into those now) When you have to cancel due to bad weather it is not always an easy decision, especially if its a matter of "what" the weather will do in a few hours.

Here are a few tips to consider next time you need to make that last minute decision:

1. Err on the side of safety. It will not always be the most popular decision, especially if it is a fun event. Knowing that you are not going to put their children in needless danger is reassuring to a parent and helps build on the trust they have in bringing their children to youth events.

2. Think through the entire event, not just the beginning. When it comes to bad weather, the changes can be quick and drastic. Make sure the roads will be safe not just at the beginning of the event, but also on the way home. No one wants to get stranded for a few hours while you wait for the road crews to make it safe to be on the roads again. Along with that, think about how far your students/parents will be driving and where they will be coming from to drop off and pick up.

3. Talk to your team. Make sure and communicate with the other adults who are involved with the event. Talk to your team and get their feelings. If anyone on your team feels hesitant about continuing then stop to consider why. Ultimately the decision comes down to the person in charge of said event, but this person shouldn't be making it alone.

4. Don't be afraid to hurt feeling - if you need to cancel; cancel. This goes with #1. There will be other concerts. You can go skiing again later. It is better to make sure you are being responsible and keeping your students safe than to risk it and regret it later. Do not let the decision be swayed by the emotions of the teenagers.

5. Have a backup plan or reschedule as soon as you can. This might be one of the tougher aspects of winter planning. Some events (ie. ski trip) need to be planned in advance and rescheduling is difficult, if not impossible. One option is to have a "make up" date on the calendar and publicize it as a rescheduled date if you have to cancel the first. This way parents can already have it on their calendar and can try to keep it open. The rescheduled date may not have the same attendance as the original, but if you announce it ahead of time you will see a higher number than otherwise.

6. Be Flexible. One thing I don't like about the winter is trying to plan events. One thing I have learned is the need to be flexible. Some events will be canceled at the last minute. Some will need to be modified or adjusted to fit. Some will continue as planned, but with less attendance. Some will not be affected at all. As a youth worker, you have to be willing to go with the flow and adjust as needed.

Remember youth ministry is about longevity, not short term.

How have your winter plans been affected by weather? What other tips do you have on deciding when to cancel or modify an event?

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