COVID-Proofing Trips

Heading into summer 2021, you and other individuals from your group may be asking, “With many unknowns about COVID-19, how is YouthWorks working to ensure safety on my mission trip?”

This page highlights some of the specific work we’re doing to provide the safest environments possible that could help mitigate the impact of COVID. The breakdown includes key safety updates. 

Download the Trip Leader’s Guide to COVID-Proofing Trips

Our Safety Philosophy

YouthWorks has been creating summer COVID-19 safety policies by looking at CDC guidelines, state recommendations and resources from the American Camp Association. It’s easy to look at these policies as ‘restrictions’ – we understand that some things may feel more stringent than your group is used to! However, we encourage you to look at these safety policies not as ‘restrictions,’ but as a way to care for each other and communities. Our intent is that your entire trip is safe for everyone involved.

Below are some of the safety plans YouthWorks intends to implement for summer 2021 mission trips. Know that at this time these plans are based on the current climate of COVID-19 requirements and additional standards may be added or removed pending guidance from the CDC and American Camp Association. Any changes will be communicated to you prior to your YouthWorks mission trip.

Arrive Healthy

Participants will not be allowed to attend if they are currently sick with COVID-19 symptoms, if they have had COVID-19 symptoms in the last 10 days or if they have been around someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days. If a participant experiences COVID-19 symptoms leading up to the trip and believes their symptoms are not COVID-related, they would need to have a negative COVID-19 test and be cleared by a medical professional before being able to arrive on site.

Participants should be prepared to track symptoms for a minimum of 10 days, bring documentation to site and continue to monitor symptoms during the week. We also recommend that anyone with an underlying health condition that makes them vulnerable to COVID-19 stay at home for their safety. 

Plan to Stay with your Church Group

Consider your church group your “pod,” bubble” or “cohort.” Crews will be a smaller subset of your church – this is different than previous years where church groups mixed together. Many activities this summer will happen exclusively in your church group or crew. Trip Leaders will form these crews before their group arrives and should pay attention to vehicle needs.

View Example Diagrams

Service

YouthWorks Mission Trip Associates are working with and listening closely to our Service Partners when determining the safest and most respectful ways to serve. This may mean that in some communities, we will be unable to serve with more vulnerable individuals directly. Before your trip, engage with your group about what respectful service could look like and how you can enter into the community with an open mind to that service.

You might experience things like…

  • Smaller service crews.
  • Serving only with your own group.
  • Updated vehicle or transportation guidelines and requirements.
  • Specific guidelines for engaging with community members.

Your Mission Trip Associate will provide more direction and information as we get closer to summer 2021. 

Large Group Meal and Gathering Times

During meals and large group gathering times (such as The Gathering and devotion introductions), crews will sit together while staying at least six feet from other crews. Because of this, a large well-ventilated area is required for large group times. Outdoor areas are preferred for these large group times.

The Gathering: Elements of our large group programming, such as games, discussion groups and experiential elements, will be adjusted to ensure safety. 

Dining: Groups may spread out to eat in additional rooms, eat outdoors or eat in shifts. We are updating our strict kitchen safety protocols to ensure crews are safe while preparing, serving and eating meals. 

View Example Diagrams

Housing Capacity for Sleeping

The YouthWorks Mission Team is planning and budgeting for the possibility of needing to host groups at 50% of sleeping room capacity. Alternative primary lodging facilities or secondary facilities are being sought out to ensure there is plenty of room to spread out in sleeping spaces. 

View Example Diagrams

Shower Exclusivity

YouthWorks is committed to finding shower locations where YouthWorks participants would be the only groups who would have access to the shower facilities during our designated shower time.

Frequently Asked Covid-Proofing Questions

It’s highly likely that mask-wearing and social distancing will happen on your site. At present, plan on wearing masks for indoor activities (besides eating and sleeping) and during any outdoor activity when social distancing is not possible. We are also planning on social distancing as much as possible. As YouthWorks continues to monitor the recommendations of the CDC and the COVID-19 status in our communities, we may determine to tighten or loosen our mask wearing and social distancing requirements on site.

We know that worshipping, learning and processing the day together is important – it’s one of our favorite parts of the day! We’re committed to incorporating these elements in various ways this summer, though these ways may look different than previous years.

We have several contingency plans for The Gathering based on the severity of COVID-19 during the summer. These plans range from a stronger response, where we would significantly limit the amount of time in a large group and move most elements to Church Group Time, to more moderate responses such as making sure games and activities allow for social distancing, exploring other ways to worship beyond singing, or moving worship to an outdoor experience.

If any participant experiences COVID-19 symptoms while on the YouthWorks site, they will immediately be isolated until their parent or guardian can pick them up. We do not have adequate facilities for quarantining participants on a longer-term basis. We request that the participant gets tested for COVID-19 and reports any positive results to YouthWorks. If we determine there is significant risk to the larger group, it is possible that more participants may need to go home if they have been in close contact with the sick person.

If a participant is diagnosed with COVID-19 during or up to 14 days post-trip, please contact our YouthWorks office. We will create a plan of action, including letting churches and ministry partners know of the situation.

While we are doing everything to COVID-proof your trip, the reality is that your group could be exposed to COVID-19 at some point in the community. Your safety is paramount, and if your group happens to be exposed to an individual with COVID-19, we would work with you while following public health guidance to determine a plan. If we determine there is significant risk to the larger group, it is possible that participants may need to go home.

With the complexities that COVID-19 brings, we ask that your group is flexible and is prepared to serve communities in ways that are both safe and needed. We are consistently communicating with our community partners, and if we hear that it is no longer safe to serve in a specific way, we will plan alternate meaningful service projects for your group.

Participants will track their symptoms leading up to the trip and bring documentation that they are healthy. This may be a daily tracker or a simpler form. We will decide on a procedure closer to the spring. Regardless of the procedure, we still expect participants to arrive healthy.

If a participant experiences COVID-19 symptoms leading up to the trip and believes their symptoms are not COVID-related, they would need to have a negative COVID-19 test and be cleared by a medical professional before being able to arrive onsite.

The YouthWorks Mission Team is planning and budgeting for the possibility of needing to host groups at 50% of sleeping room capacity. Alternative primary lodging facilities or secondary facilities are being sought out to ensure there is plenty of room to spread out in sleeping spaces. Click here for a diagram of what these sleeping rooms could look like.

 

We know that mixing with other churches is often a highlight of a YouthWorks trip. Participants are encouraged to mix with other groups during free time/downtime, provided they follow safety guidelines.

That being said, the best practice is to limit interaction between groups of people. This way, if someone gets sick, it minimizes risk to the whole group. Because of this, we will limit mixing churches during service day, transportation and in sleeping rooms.

Service Day: Plan to serve in your crews throughout the day. As a reminder, crews will be a smaller subset of the larger church group, typically around 10 people.

Transportation: In a similar fashion, you will not transport participants from other churches or community members in your vehicles this summer. This is to minimize COVID-19 risk, as it is hard to social distance in vehicles.

Sleeping Rooms: While it may not be possible that each church has their own exclusive sleeping room, we are planning for churches to be able to stay in their own areas in sleeping rooms. To the extent possible, we will provide temporary barriers between church groups, in addition to the sleeping room protocols listed above.

At this time, we are planning to give groups the opportunity to do footwashing in their church groups if they are comfortable with it. We will also give some ideas of meaningful activities, if churches wish to forego footwashing.