Why Kids Don’t Go To Camp: How To Talk To Parents

Drew Hill April 15, 2021

We’re continuing our “Why Kids Don’t Go To Camp” series by looking at The Top 5 Excuses Kids Make and How to Respond.

  1. My friends aren’t going.
  2. I don’t have the money.
  3. My parents won’t let me.
  4. I have schedule conflicts.
  5. I’m afraid of the unknown.

Today we’re talking about how to talk to parents. 

Excuse #3: My Parents Won’t Let Me Go

When I first started leading Young Life over twenty years ago, leaders typically had much closer relationships with the parents of their high school friends. Back then, teenagers didn’t own cell phones, so in order to contact them, a leader had to call the home phone. This often resulted in conversations with parents.

One key in getting your teenage friends to camp is to not only invest in them, but also in a relationship with their parents. Not many parents will quickly shell out hundreds of dollars to ship their kid off to camp with someone they don’t really know. Most parents would love to know you better, even if they have not made any effort to do so. If we want to take their kids to camp, we must step out of our comfort zones and build relationships with moms and dads.

7 Keys To Interacting With Parents


As a general rule, refer to them as Mr. or Mrs. InsertLast-Name. I would always default to this, but exceptions can more easily be made if
you’re married, a parent, or over 25. If they give you permission to call them by their first name, go with that.


Calling communicates that you’re a responsible adult, whereas sending a text message appears less confident and more adolescent. If you’re not confident in making those phone calls, ask your Area Director to set you up
with a “practice call” with an adult on the Young Life Committee so you can rehearse. It’s appropriate to send a text message to a parent at first to set up a phone call:

Hey Mr. Smith, my name is Drew Hill and I am one of Johnny’s Young Life leaders. Would you have any time this week for me to call and chat about the possibility of Johnny coming with us to camp this summer? If so, when is a good time for me to call?


Parents may call your phone and get your voicemail. Will the greeting they hear lead them to trust you more or think of you as irresponsible? When they stalk you on social media, what pictures will they see? When a parent snoops in their teenager’s text messages, what will the texts you wrote to their child communicate about you?


Parents will want details about camp. Do you have a fundraising plan? Do
you know what their child will need to pack? Do you know how to describe a typical day at camp, or the sleeping and bathroom situations?


I once called a dad to ask if his son could come to camp. He told me
that he couldn’t trust his son to be away from home and needed to keep him on lockdown this summer. I promised him that his son would almost always be with a leader. I explained our value of leader-centered camping. I told him “We’re not just ‘chaperones’ letting kids roam around, but ‘adult friends’ seizing every opportunity to share life with them.” This was a foreign concept to him and our conversation gave him greater confidence to consider allowing his son to go. Despite that, he sadly still ended up not letting him join us, but the conversation opened the door for a relationship with his family and his son came with us to winter weekend camp the following year.


Describe your hopes for the trip and for their child. Tell them about your own experience and what influenced you in becoming a leader. Speak to the ways you have seen camp impact kids in the past and the potential you see in their child.


Getting their kid to camp is not worth hurting your relationship with them. We’re in these relationships for the long haul, not just for a week of camp.
Respect them enough to allow them to make the decision. After all, they are the parent, we are not.

Here’s one of the most honest posts I’ve ever written on this blog and it speaks more to this issue: “The Danger of Preying.” And another on “Crossing the Line.”

Bottom line: build relationships with BOTH teenagers and parents.

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