Always Have a “Plan Z”

I have a confession to make. I am a perfectionist. Not in a way that makes me procrastinate, like many others of my breed, but I do like things to go EXACTLY how I planned them.

No. Wait.  That’s not a perfectionist.  That’s a control freak.

Ok, I have a confession. I am a control freak. Not to say that things MUST go my way or else I’ll have a tantrum. It’s just that if things DON’T go my way those closest to me can feel my angst, hear my worry, and see my doubt.

This trait is not something that I’m proud of. It’s… well, I refuse to say it’s “just the way I am” because THAT is such a bad excuse for poor manners. Instead, I will admit that it’s something I’m working on.

In my defense (because every control freak has a defense), the focus of my control issues usually involves very good reasons and very good causes. The latest culprit was  the outing that I planned for the youth group at church last week. Of course, I was determined that it HAD  to be perfect!

I had so much anxiety about this event. You’re probably thinking, “Why? It’s young people. You actually like young people. Why stress out?”

While it’s true that I enjoy being around and working with young people, I don’t consider myself the best activities coordinator. See, I don’t really do activities. I am very transparent to the fact that I am not the fun adult.

What I mean is, I don’t ever think “Ooh, let’s go to Six Flags” or “Let’s play a game of _____”, or “Who wants to make a ______.” Those things just don’t come naturally for me. But, when it’s time to do them, I’m always a willing participant, especially when someone else is leading them. Sign me up!

But this time, as youth director, the event was my responsibility and it was our first activity to be held outside of the church.  Well, the outing was. Thankfully, the awesome youth board president and vice president took care of the games and making stuff part that happened back at the church. Whew!

Since the young people in the group and I are just starting to get acquainted, I wanted to do a team building outing – something different from those big activity places youth groups always end up. You know, trust falls and such.

One of the youth volunteers recommended an activity center where you have to escape from a room with a limited amount of time, using clues to assist you. I thought this would be fun and we were all set to go. Until…

3 days before our outing, the place we were going to 3 days later, informed me they would be closed to the public because of the Fire Marshal code. WHAT?!?

Three days to come up with plan B? For 20-25 people? On the Saturday before the last Saturday before Christmas? The Saturday when every other youth group is also having an outing, party, or gathering? Not to mention the typical overabundance of birthday parties that occupy weekend spots! THREE DAYS!

I would love to say that I was calm, cool, and collected,   but since I’ve already made my confessions, I can be honest. This control freak lost it! I was officially STRESSED OUT! I spent a full day calling every party place in town to see if they had room on their calendar to take one more group.

Plan B. Nope. We’re booked.

Plan C. Sorry, those times don’t work for us.

Plan D. Oh we can take half of your group at that time. Really?

Plan E. F. G.

You get the idea.

Finally, Plan Z opened up. I really didn’t want to go to this place because I felt like the kids had probably been there A LOT. I didn’t know for sure, but it was just a feeling. I had never been there but, it wasn’t about me. It was about them. I needed them to feel special and considered. But this location was the only one that could accommodate our group size and schedule so…Plan Z was in full effect.

Here’s what I know to be true. When adults focus on making sure we do our part in getting the needs of youth met, things work out!

With youth developmental outcomes in mind, here are four of the seven youth needs in action for Plan Z. I will post the remaining three next week. Why? Because one of the adult needs is suspense.  Ok, I made that up. But honestly, I need and appreciate you for coming back to my blog site for more.  So, here are four basic needs of young people as it relates to activities planning.

Belonging and membership. Young people want to belong to something. They want to feel loved and part of the larger group. The fact that many of the kids had on their youth group t-shirt – without me even asking them to wear it – was a huge sign they feel a part of the group AND want other people to see they are a part of the group.

Safety and structure. Young people need to feel safe. They need to feel like there is a sense of structure, which gives safety and protection. Chaos creates fear and when they don’t feel safe, they’re chaotic. Before we left the church, we talked about the schedule for the day, set the guidelines and expectations for behavior and made sure everyone had my mobile number and I had theirs. We also talked about sticking to the buddy system (yes, even middle school and high school students) and how no one was to be roaming this big place alone.

The place was amazing! Bowling, laser tag, billiards, arcade games, so much to do! I set the tone for the day by starting a friendly competition, with me being the one to beat. I wanted them to know that I was there to be a part of the fun and to get to know them – not just monitor their behavior. Who wants to do that!? So every time got a strike (yes, there were several times), I may or may not have done a dance.

I also told them how I had never played laser tag and was willing to learn if someone would teach me. So,  when it was time to play, I had plenty of teachers. Which brings me to the last two youth needs…

Self-Worth and Ability to Contribute  Young people need to be able to contribute and they want the opportunity to show what they know. They also need to see that  we are willing to learn from them. And since I was the only one who hadn’t played laser tag, their level of Competence and Mastery was a sight to see! I made sure to tell them how I appreciated their showing me how to play, even if they did “shoot” me. It was great!

In case you can’t tell, I had SO MUCH FUN! More importantly, the youth group had fun. I stressed out for nothing. Well, maybe that’s extreme but let’s just say that I can do a better job at remembering that young people want to be seen, heard, included, liked, and loved. If you bring all of that to the room, 9 times out of 10, things will go well.

So even though plan Z wasn’t my first plan, it was the best plan. And yes, the day went EXACTLY the way this perfectionist control freak Work-in-Progress hoped that it would!


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