Field trips can be fun
Wed, 14 Apr 2010 - 4:01 PM CST
By Efraim Espinoza
"Pastor, I didn’t want to call you this late, but do you have any idea when the van will return from kids camp? We have been waiting here at the church for 2 hours."
"Pastor, I’m calling you from a service station. A tire on the church van blew out as we were returning from the women’s retreat. The attendant says we need a new tire. The only one that fits our van is not an exact size match to the other three tires. Will it be all right to get it, and…can you give the attendant a credit card number to pay for the tire?"
Typical complaints of church-sponsored trips.
While passing transportation coordination 101 was not required for graduation from Bible college, it is part of a church leader’s portfolio. Responsibility for leading field trips often falls on volunteer leaders such as the Sunday school superintendent, Royal Rangers commander, Women’s Ministries leader, Missionettes coordinator, or youth leader, which complicates the picture.
Field trips can be fun for the participants and leaders. Whether it is an adult Sunday school class or a Missionettes group, the experience of traveling together can build relationships. Church field trips can vary from a primary Sunday school class’s 3-hour visit to the city zoo to a 3- to 4-day trip to camp, convention, or retreat by 25 kids, youth, or adults.
Because field trips are so important to church life, you will want to ensure that the difficulties in planning and conducting them are kept to a minimum. A few written guidelines can help.* In addition, the persons planning these trips should keep the following suggestions in mind.
With young children, choose a site that is less than an hour away. A trip longer than I hour will test the endurance of both students and workers.
The site should be kid-tested to assure maximum participation. Make sure the destination is one the students want to visit.
The field trip should be affordable. By planning and checking all the details, the teacher or group leader can prevent embarrassing situations that arise from hidden costs. Properly communicating field trip costs will allow the students to come prepared.
If possible, have parents provide the transportation. If it is necessary to use a church van or bus, follow the established procedure for reserving and using these vehicles.
Select a driver who meets the state laws and church insurance requirements. Be certain he or she has a good driving record.
Follow proper procedures for reserving the vehicle to prevent overbooking the limited number of vehicles.
Develop a checklist and require the driver and/or field trip leader to complete it before the trip. The checklist should include space for recording the odometer readings at trip beginnings and conclusions. Vehicle cleanliness before and after trips is the driver’s responsibility, as well as submitting comments on the vehicle’s performance or recommendations for repairs.
Informed parents are happy parents. Distribute detailed information about the upcoming field trip at least 3 weeks before the event. Invite parents to serve as sponsors and chaperons. Adequate adult supervision must be provided on all trips.
Every child or teen should have a signed parental permission slip. Seek legal counsel in preparing the permission slip for field trips.
The trip supervisor is accountable to the church for the students’ welfare from the time they leave the custody of their parents/ guardians to the time they return to their custody. Explain the rules for the trip to both participants and parents/guardians. Repeating them at the beginning of the field trip will help reinforce them. Chaperons will help the team leader in enforcing the rules, but the leader is the ultimate authority.
Outline and communicate precautionary measures in case of vehicle breakdowns or accidents. The driver is the ultimate authority regarding the safety of the vehicle. If the driver determines a vehicle failure, the trip leader or person designated by the leader should call the church contact phone numbers.
An accident on or off a public road that results in any damage to the vehicle should be reported to the proper authorities. The trip leader should call one of the church contact numbers to inform the church of the accident.
The church is responsible for contacting parents/guardians and advising them of the accident as well as the welfare and location of students.
The driver should submit a written accident report as soon as possible to the church so the proper insurance claim can be processed. The trip leader and/or chaperons should verify the driver’s report.
If there are injuries or possible injuries due to the accident, the trip leader or other responsible person should contact the State Highway Patrol or other public safety personnel and request emergency medical services.
Church officials, in consultation with the trip leader, will decide if the trip should continue or be canceled. If the vehicle is disabled, the church will decide if the repairs should be done in the immediate area or if the vehicle should be returned to the church.
The church will arrange for repairing or towing the vehicle. Church officials will also arrange for alternative transportation of trip participants if the church vehicle is disabled.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is more than just an adage when it comes to church field trips. The time and effort required to develop established trip/busing policy for the church will serve to assure church leaders that field trips can be fun.