2016_11_21_mike_fMike Ford spends his days trying to love God and love people, starting with his wife Val and their four children. He enjoys being in God’s creation, going on adventures, good books and movies, and milk chocolate.

One of the things I love about youth convention is that the youth have freedom — to choose from among various seminars, to move around the display and recreation areas, to walk through the city, to hang out in the hotel lobbies. But this freedom can also lead to some poor choices and behavioral challenges. To help nip some of these possible problems in the bud, we have asked our convention-going youth (and their parents) to read, understand, and sign a convention covenant.

We do this in October or November the year before convention when we are first giving out convention info — dates, costs and fundraising details.

This way, anyone signing up for convention knows from the start what our expectations are for their behavior, and willingly agrees to follow these expectations when they decide to sign up.

A covenant should be simple and include the issues that are necessary and important for your group. In our covenant, we spell out our expectations for seminar attendance, bed times and curfews, respectful behavior and always being with at least two other people from our group. We have each youth and their parents sign and date the covenant. We also include the following: “I commit to abide by any rules and guidelines my youth leaders and the convention leadership announce during convention.” That gives the room needed to add anything necessary at convention. We also clarify that, in a worst case scenario, the youth could be sent home mid-week at the family’s expense if they violate the covenant (though we’ve never had to do this).

The advantages to doing a covenant when youth first sign up for convention is that everyone — parents included — knows our behavioral expectations for youth and agrees to abide by them from the beginning of the convention process. There are no surprises. In the adrenaline rush of convention freedom, there is no lack of knowledge of the rules, no need for whining when I remind them to be in bed by a preset time, and parents have backed us up on everything. Yes, we still have behavioral issues to deal with at convention, but rarely on anything we’ve made clear in the covenant.