When I was a teenager, a fun way to get to know people and learn more about God was to get involved in different church activities.

During the winter months, there is plenty to do outdoors that can bring people together. The first thing to consider, however, is how to keep everyone safe. Here goes my embarrassing story…

I was in ninth grade and going on my first ski trip with a friend’s youth group. I was so excited, and it was a good way to meet people and bring worship into my little vacation. It was over Christmas break and being from Tennessee, we made the (somewhat) short trip to the mountains of West Virginia. I had never been skiing before but I didn’t want to take the time for ski school since everyone else was headed straight for the slopes. I was doing fine until day two. On the second day, my friends and I decided to ride a ski lift to the middle of a large mountain, confident that we could get off there and slowly ski down.

Boy… was I wrong.

The chair took us to the very top and dropped us off on a black diamond slope, where I was sure one of my friends was going to have a panic attack. Thinking I was invincible at 15-years-old, I quickly flew down the mountain, rounded a corner, and collided right into the back of a snowboarder adjusting his eye wear. Embarrassingly, I had to be taken down the mountain in a truck to see the medic. My friends saw this as a photo opportunity and had a field day with it. I, too, found some amusement in it until I was told that I had seriously hurt my arm. Needless to say, I was not able to ski for the rest of the trip.

The moral of my story is that the whole situation could have been avoided had there been a lot more organization on the trip. Our trip leaders never had any idea about my incident because there was no way for me to give the medics that information. I was also brand new to skiing, but there was never any push for newbies to do the one hour of ski school. And I don’t recall a single person on our trip wearing any safety gear, such as helmets or wrist bands.

It is important to know what is going on with each person on your trip, and although I am to blame for my bad decision, I do understand how a 15-year-old might not think about keeping contact info in his or her pocket, or how he or she would think ski school would be a waste of time. Someone should have planned out these minor details and made sure that everyone was adequately prepared.

So, the next time you are planning a retreat, in any season, make sure that you have the proper safety precautions sorted out so you can have fun and spend your time worshiping together. Best wishes to you all!