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The Importance Of Offering A Residential Opportunity

Wednesday 21st August 2019

Residential Experiences

Offering a residential experience is so important, something which provides opportunities that other parts of the programme just cannot!

As we launch a new partnership with Kingswood, one of the UK’s most experienced outdoor learning providers, we wanted to take the opportunity to encourage you and your Company to consider the benefits of offering a residential experience.

Sometimes with the busyness in our Companies, we lose sight of something which is so important – building relationships with the children and young people. Residentials can provide that opportunity for us as leaders to really get to know the children and young people whilst also helping the individual and the group as a whole in a range of ways.

Taking children and young people away from home overnight, particularly camping, has always been an important part of growing up in the BB. The BB first started camping in 1886 and since then residential experiences have played an important part in our programmes. Often our memories and those of the children and young people in our Companies will be of residential experiences, that “week in Dyffryn”, or “weekend away in France”. Survey of children and young people carried out by the Brigade show that camps and residential trips are important and were the highlight for many.

How important are residentials in your Company? What do you offer each year? Do you have a residential opportunity on offer to every child/young person (as eligible)? Have you considered progression? What does a young person who is 11 have to look forward to when they are 16? Residentials can often be the key to retention, especially with older members.

What do residentials offer?

An opportunity:

  • to be outdoors
  • to meet requirements for awards
  • to develop and strengthen friendships
  • to help leaders share their faith
  • for young people to take responsibility for themselves
  • to give young people a chance to exercise a leadership role
  • to build teamwork skills, strengthen the links within the group
  • to give young people the chance to be self-sufficient and develop independence
  • to learn and develop skills
  • to travel and see different places
  • to do other activities not usually possible
  • to provide a high point to the year’s activities
  • to increase self-confidence
  • to provide a holiday for those that might not otherwise have one
  • to have fun and adventure!

There are so many ways of going about running a residential experience, with different types of venues and environments. These could include, but are not limited to, a sleepover at your meeting place, going to a residential activity centre, youth hostelling, going to a festival or event, using a church hall, an expedition; narrow boating, camping or even going abroad.

“Fundamental to the work of The Boys’ Brigade is building relationships and there is no better time to do this than a time away. To laugh together, to talk nonsense, to play silly games, to hike the mountains, to have a midnight ramble, but most importantly to talk about issues that concern the boys, to explore that all important journey of faith and to advance Christ’s Kingdom. Time away? It’s vital to the work of the organisation… just listen to the buzz when we start talking about it!!!”

Walter Lambe, 1st Ballylinney

Are there reasons why we can’t offer residentials?

The main barrier cited is often the lack of available leaders. Other reasons can be lack of experience, associated costs, lack of transport or local resources.

How can we break down these barriers?

Availability & Responsibility

You need at least two leaders to be able to run a residential of any type, and someone has to take responsibility for it. But you can perhaps lighten the load. In BB terms the person taking overall responsibility would be a registered leader (an Officer) who has the Holiday Leadership Certificate (a 1-day course being run throughout the Brigade). The Holiday Leadership course will be of great help in providing the opportunity to think through what you will need to do and give you some ideas on how to go about things (choice of location, risk assessments, etc).

Alternatively it might be that you could organise a residential as a joint activity with another Company or group of Companies, or as a Battalion/District which might mean that someone else takes on the responsibility for leading the residential and/or may mean your Company only needs one leader to accompany your young people.

Another fantastic way to offer a residential is through our outdoor education partner Kingswood, who welcome groups all year round, for day visits, great value weekend breaks and longer adventures. Their outdoor activity and adventure programmes are tailored to the objectives of your group, the age of your young people and the duration of your stay to ensure you enjoy maximum impact from your trip. The best thing of all is that you have an experienced team working alongside you to organise the programme (although you will have some options to choose from), provide all meals, accommodation and can even provide the transport. This can leave you and your leaders with less of the load and allow you to focus on building relationships with your children and young people.

We don’t have the staff with the necessary training and experience to run a camp on our own, so being able to offer our children and young people opportunities to go on Battalion run residentials was a boost to our programme!

Paul Bracher, 1st Edmonton

Top Tip

Sometimes running a residential will mean leaders will need to take time off work; it’s worth talking to employers, as some will be supportive and give additional time off, allow half days before or after, etc. Did you know that some businesses as well as those working in the civil service have Employer-supported volunteering schemes where employees are encouraged to volunteer and given time off to do so?


It’s always going to be helpful to have learned from previous experiences. If you’ve never run or been on a residential with children/young people before, then why not see if you could go along to something being organised by another Company? If your Company runs residentials already, have you considered succession planning? Encouraging others to take responsibility and build up valuable experience across your team.


Remember that all adults going on a residential MUST be registered with BB Headquarters. For those leaders only involved in residentials, there is no cost in registering them as ‘Residential Activity Helpers’.


A big factor for parents/carers will be around cost and value for money. But it’s also important to realise that cost can also be a barrier for some leaders. However, the cost of BB holidays is often very reasonable compared to the costs for residentials by schools and other providers. The cost of our residentials can vary considerably, from using your own hall for a sleepover where food and other costs might mean £5 per person to organising a trip abroad which might cost £500 per person.

Top Tip

Don’t under-value the creativity of your own staff and equipment/resources, with what you can do on-site or in public places (parks, beaches, sightseeing) or at free attractions (museums, exhibitions, etc.).

Putting together a budget and planning well in advance will help you to keep costs down and under control. Numbers will play a big factor and there will be some financial risk based on a minimum number of young people attending. Again, forward planning and encouraging small deposits before you have to confirm bookings can help to reduce this risk. Some adventure and activity centres offer per person costs rather than hiring out a whole building and exclusive use of activities, and they sometimes offer free leader places. So, the big message here is to do your research and plan the what, where and when based on it being affordable for your children and young people
(and leaders!).

Does your Company offer assistance to children/young people that would struggle to meet the cost? If not, could you offer support, by doing some fundraising or approaching your Church/ Battalion for support? You could also consider putting in a funding application to cover the cost of a specific activity or element.


Naturally here we think of leaders driving cars and minibuses, which probably is the most common way, but not the only way. Some Companies will ask parents/carers to drop children/young people off at the location (if a reasonable distance) and ask that parents/carers help each other out and work together. Others will jump on a train, as children and young people can often travel cheaply by rail. Some residential activity centres will organise transport for you to take that hassle away. Importantly it’s about working within your means here, what options you have available to you and choosing your location based on those.

Camps allow the boys to have time away from home and I believe that it allows the boys to learn, grow and discover as a young person and also allows the staff to get to know the boys better and vice versa. The residential experience, I believe is an important part of The Boys’ Brigade programme which can’t really be done as part of normal meeting nights. The experience and memories made at camp last a lifetime!

Martin Dunbar, 4th & 5th Fraserburgh

So, if you’re still asking yourself the question “How can I offer residential opportunities?
You should speak to another leader, ask for some support from someone you know who already runs residential activities in their Company, or bring it up as a point for discussion at a Battalion meeting. You could also speak to the team at Kingswood to find out how they can help. Alternatively contact your Regional Headquarters who will be able to offer some support and advice and point you in the right direction.

Chris Norman
Development Support Manager, BBHQ

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