In the very busy world of your youth ministry team, let me send you the most strategic possible reminder possible for the health of your youth program in both depth and width: Summer camp is just around the corner!
The fastest growing and spiritually deepest youth ministries that I have seen in 30 years of youth work all have one thing in common: They take kids to camp with their leaders. Here is a letter that was on missional church planting guru Mike Breen’s blog (he is a Church of England guy) about the importance of camp. It is from his son, who is an emerging Christian leader. I commend it to you and ask you to spend time every week personally and with your volunteers strategizing summer camp.
- What leaders will go from your parish?
- What students have signed up? Which ones haven’t yet and how can you get them to re-prioritize so that they can make the trip?
- What incentives are you offering to students to bring their unchurched friends?
- Have you talked to parents to know how much financial help each student will need?
In youth ministry, “contending for the faith,” to paraphrase Jude, is often a matter of getting students to a place where they are simply out of their daily grind. Camp is the most powerful tool youth ministers have to place students before the Savior.
WHY CAMP MATTERS
by Sam Breen
Camps often serve as a milestone in a person’s life – one that can’t be replaced by anything else. Milestones often don’t change your direction, they help you recognize how far you have gone and how much further your have to go. Maybe more importantly, when you gets lost, milestones are a specific point you can visit in order to make sure you start going in the right direction.
I have been to so many youth camps, I lost count a long time ago. Some of my favorite were Soul Survivor UK 2008, where God impacted me personally and began to direct my life in new ways. UCYC camp 2006, where I got into one of the largest food fights I’ve ever been in. Six Flags 2005 — the first time I began to think there was a girl in my life that I wanted to date. Lake Havasu, where I took another step in leading my peers. Wayfarer Camp 2012, where I found a movement I wanted to invest in. Each one of these were important in different ways; some were important because they marked personal developments, like meeting a girl that I instantly wanted to date (and am now married to!). Other camps were places where I got to know God more intimately, and some gave me a new heart for justice in the world.
Camps are important. They have a massive impact in the development of a person, regardless of whether or not the camp has a spiritual aspect. At camp, teenagers are able to pursue independence in a safe environment. The insecure find their self-esteem, lifelong friendships are made, dreams and goals are shaped. The realization occurs that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Students stand in a room with hundreds of other kids and realize that their life can collide with the lives of others to create life-altering moments.
On top of this, the spiritual element to camp can make a difference that might change lives forever. Sometimes people are so close to choosing to follow Jesus that all it takes is being away from the normality of the everyday to shake up their world enough to choose Christ. Camp is a pilgrimage, an experience some youth may not find anywhere else. They arrive and discover that they are in a room with hundreds of other students there for the same reason — to experience Jesus afresh. That kind of expectancy can do incredible things in the spiritual realm. It’s not surprise to me that at camps, God seems to “show up” more. When there are that many people in a room, with people standing side by side, almost everyone’s faith grows.
If there is a opportunity for the youth that you are leading to mount another significant milestone in their life, why would you not take that chance? Giving a student an opportunity to join a group going to camp may be exactly what they need to find a new milestone and move a little further to set another.