(This article first appeared in Youth Ministry Magazine. www.youthministrymagazine.org)
I have a confession to make: I love youth camp. God began calling me to surrender my life to Christ at youth camp. As a camp counselor and program director, I began to sense God calling me into the ministry. As a youth pastor, I saw my students’ lives transformed while they attended camp. I also began to sense God calling me into Christian higher education while taking my students to a camp hosted by a Christian university. Camps have played a pivotal role in my walk with Christ. I also believe that camps can have a major impact on the spiritual lives of your students.
There are three reasons I believe you should take your students to camp this summer:
Camp helps students focus on their relationships with God.
At camp, students leave their environment back home along with all the distractions that go along with it. Most camps do not allow students full access to their cell phones, iPads, and other devices. They are encouraged to focus on what God is doing in their lives. This separation from potential distractions and the encouragement to focus on their relationship with God potentially places students in a better posture to hear what God has to say to them through His Word. When all the noise of their environment back home is taken away, they can better hear the “still small voice” of God as He reveals His will to them during their devotional time, group Bible studies, and worship services at camp (1 Kings 19:12).
Camp helps youth pastors and adult leaders move closer in their discipleship relationships with their students.
At camp, youth pastors and adult leaders have more opportunities to spend quality time getting to know and pouring into their students. They can take advantage of time to hang out with students and just listen to them. These interactions can literally be life changing for students and adult leaders. They can enable adult leaders to minister more effectively to their students because they know them better—their hopes, dreams, fears, challenges, relationships, families, and spiritual conditions. The pace of church life in the fall and spring make it harder to spend such quality time with students. Camp creates ample moments for youth pastors and adult leaders to listen to and pour into their students.
Camp helps students to grow closer to members of their youth group and to Christians from outside their communities.
At camp, students spend more time with the members of their youth group and with Christian students from around the nation. These interactions have the potential for encouraging students in their faith as they see their unity with other believers in Christ. Youth pastors and adult leaders can use their time at camp to create intentional moments to foster unity in their youth group and to paint a picture of what authentic fellowship and community looks like in the body of Christ. Students can gain a vision for how they can love, support, and encourage each other in Christ as they seek to advance His Kingdom in their families, communities, schools, and churches. Adult leaders can also use camp to help their more spiritually mature students catch a vision for how they can mentor and disciple students who are younger in the faith. Camp can be a great environment to unify and empower youth groups for Kingdom advancement.
So, is camp in your plans for the summer? The three reasons mentioned above are just a few of the key ways that summer camp can have a positive impact in your youth ministry and in the lives of your students. So, what are you waiting for? See you at camp!
Tim is the Associate Professor for Youth Ministry & Missions at Anderson University and is the Executive Director of Youth Ministry Round Table. He is the author of No Better Gospel and the coauthor of the upcoming Raising the Bar 2nd edition.