Planning a Successful Youth Conference or Handcart Trek
Planning a Pioneer Trek can be a very stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you find yourself called to plan and lead a group of young LDS Pioneers on a pioneer handcart trek, just follow these simple guidelines and you’ll have a wonderful journey along the trail.
1. Have Bishops assign Ma’s and Pa’s from each ward early so that you can begin training them. You may not know how many trekkers you’ll end up with for your pioneer trek, but you can make a fairly close estimation by basing your guess on the number of youth who’ve attended previous youth conferences.
2. Assign a capable trek registration couple to manage the registration process. This couple will be responsible for distributing and collecting registration forms to all the wards, which will then be handled by Leaders of Youth within the individual wards. A registration deadline must be established and followed, even though you will likely have drop outs and add ons along the way. Never turn a potential trekker away from this pioneer trek experience ever because it is opportunity of a lifetime.
3. Invite all leaders, youth and parents of youth to a pre-trek fireside, to kick things off and start getting everyone prepared for the experience. Remember, publicity is really important. Plan monthly events and activities that wards can work into their regular activity nights. You’ll be surprised how many Personal Progress and Duty to God requirements they’ll pass off as a result of their trek participation.
4. Be flexible with your pioneer trek schedule while on the trail. Let the pioneer trek move along the trail at it’s own pace. Schedule rigitiy is a noticable flaw and can negatively impact the spirit of the trek.
5. Visit your pioneer trek site often so that you can get a clear vision of the number of stops you will need to make along the trail, where you’ll camp, where potties will be placed, and also so that you’ll get a general idea relative to timing your handcart trek.
6. On the day of your pioneer trek, the trek chair people should arrive before everyone else so that they can greet people as they arrive, and direct traffic. Also, the activity directors should also arrive early in order to set up and get the kids busy right away. It’s a good idea to have the activities directors help the kids mark their names on their sleeping bags which are kept in garbage bags. Then the activities director can entertain the kids with amusing pioneer games such as pinecone baseball, calf roping, and stick pull games. While kids are playing games, the support crew can get the cars parked at the final destination. Plan on at least 1 hour for this.
7. While the activity director is working with the youth, the Pioneer Trek Directors should hold a brief prayer meeting with all of the Ma’s and Pa’s as well as the trail boss. This is a perfect time to answer questions and briefly go over the schedule for the day.
8. As soon as the cars are parked and everyone is present, allow a one of the youth from the Stake Youth Committee to conduct and begin with a prayer. A nice touch would be to have him or her give a short historical message to read, which relates to your handcart trek theme. This is also a good time to allow the medical team to give a few anti-dehydration tips, and the trail boss could give some handcart handling safety instructions. Once all of that is out of the way, you move right into introducing (announcing) pioneer trek companies and families. Then you assign the handcarts to the families for loading.
9. Have at least one person officially assigned to take pictures and another person officially assigned to record video footage of the entire event, taking care to include everyone in the pictures.
10. Follow the spirit when selecting your pioneer handcart trek location. When considering your location, take into consideration the climate, elevation, general terrain, and trail condition.
The responsibility of planning a successful pioneer handcart trek can be a lot of work, but you will find many blessings and miracles as you go forward with faith on your trek. Enjoy your journey and may the Holy Spirit guide and bless as each step will change you forever.
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