I’m at church youth camp, again.
I write this while sitting at a youth camp having driven several hours in a van with teenagers to ensure they have an opportunity for a life-changing experience. Between camps I attended as a student, those I worked as support staff, and those I have taken students to as a youth minister and pastor, I would literally have to stop and add up the number of camps I have been a part of. So why am I here ?
I am here because our pastor and adult volunteers in our small rural church cared enough to take us, I am here because I had a youth minister at a larger church who valued the catalyst that camp was and the rest he found in the time there. I am here because I was called in to ministry at a camp and have seen my students pass from death to life while attending a camp. In my personal experience, I can verify that students I was able to get to camp were more likely to attend throughout the church year, more likely to volunteer for ministry opportunities, and are most likely today vibrantly walking with The Lord. There are a few who are not and I pray if they read this they will yet respond to the grace of the Holy Spirit of God wooing their hearts. (You are not reading this post on an accident).
Hormones still rage, pranks still happen, and middle school Dorito breath and Axe men’s deodorant body spray still lingers, but even more permeating is the Holy Spirit of God and the lives that still change. In the camp vacuum, students are totally immersed in a Christ-centered culture. As our camp pastor Chad Poe noted last night, “it is easy to be a Christian here. You wake up and have a quiet time about Jesus, you come to morning celebration and sing songs about Jesus, you go to Bible study and study about Jesus, you go to recreation and have Jesus-centered team-building rec, you go to meals and have conversations about Jesus, you come to worship and sing about Jesus again and hear someone preach about Jesus, then you go to your church group devotion and talk about Jesus.”
The easiness of camp is not a bad thing, because life is hard and the mission is difficult. I have observed something amazing the last few days of camp: each day I see fewer and fewer phones out of pockets. In most places these kids come from, their families will note this is something like the Red Sea parting once more. I have even felt awkward checking my own phone because of the lack of teenagers checking theirs. Behavior like this causes one to ask, “what’s going on here?” The answer is “a good camp.”
I have noted a few things this week that are essential to a good camp. I also must clearly state that even under the umbrellas of the best-known camps certain variables like staff, speakers, and location can undermine essential aspects of a good camp. It’s important that the one signing up for camp do some cursory research before loading the bus. All camps are not created equal and all experiences are not the same, but there are a few things good camps have in common:
– an unmistakeable Christ-centered view of camp and the camp’s administration (this will be evident very soon)
-a Bible study centered schedule
– team building and challenging recreation
– a faithful Bible teacher who is also a great youth communicator
– music that is worship driven and not performance driven that is cohesive with the worship through the word
-a conviction that they are there to serve the local church and empower those who are going home with the students
– incomparable fun
I have a sure conviction that because of good camps there is an awkward seventh grade boy with calf-length socks, a snap-back hat, and Cheeto breath who will breathe his last breath proclaiming the gospel to a people yet unreached with the Gospel. This gives me hope and gets me behind the wheel of our fourteen passenger van.
I want to encourage those of you who feel like you are just guessing or think you are having trouble getting it together. I also want to encourage you even if you do think you have it all together. For the Pastor who has a few teenagers or the volunteer youth worker who thinks she cannot quite connect: take the kids to a good camp.