This is the first part of a five-part series.

I accepted the position to become a campus pastor at my church a year ago. After four years of being a youth pastor at my current church and 14 years total of vocational youth ministry, my transition was complete when the new youth pastor who would replace me began leading the ministry. Since then, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the years I spent in youth ministry and to praise God for the growth I had experienced during that time. Twenty-three year old Frank was wild! 

As I get opportunities to talk with youth workers and share my experiences with them, I have come up with a list of what I wish I had done differently while I was in student ministry. As one of youth ministry’s biggest fans, I want to share my five biggest regrets so maybe you can learn from my mistakes. 

I regret worrying so much about swimwear rules

This is by far one of my biggest regrets, mostly because I hate that I have spent so much of my time being concerned about what teenagers wear when they swim. It was typically culturally expected in the church that girls wear a modest one piece and a shirt, while boys could wear whatever they wanted as long as it wasn’t a Speedo. It wasn’t until I attended DYM 100 and heard Neely McQueen explain the hypocrisy and subliminal messages that I was teaching my students by enforcing these guidelines. 

For years I kept saying, “Modesty has to do more with your heart than your hemline.”  At the same time, I had super strict guidelines about what girls had to wear when they swim. It is also really weird to think that we believe girls aren’t attracted to shirtless boys or are unable to lust after them like boys would to girls. There is so much inconsistency in this that I am embarrassed of every camp packing list I ever made.

Please don’t mistake me for saying that there shouldn’t be any rules. Some of this could be a cultural expectation and your church may force you to have these rules. Either way, I would encourage you to make any and all packing lists in community. Have men and women on your leadership team speak into what should be packed as well as dress code rules. I simply wish I just told students to pack a bathing suit, wear whatever they are comfortable with, and then teach our students to not objectify each other and respect others by not sexualizing them. (Why does that sound so obvious when I write it out like that now?)

I talk about this and more on my Podcast, 15 Minutes with Frank.

Check it out on Youtube:


Some questions to consider:

Where do you get your bathing suit policy from? Did you inherit it or did you come up with it on your own or did you just copy someone else’s? 

How are you teaching your students about respecting and not objectifying each other?  

When preparing for your next camp or retreat, who can you invite to review the packing list with?

Frank Gil

My name is Frank. I once ran over a possum.
If you purchase my products, your students will think you are awesome!

Find Frank’s DYM resources here!