We hope you are enjoying the new Youth Ministry Conversations site. Our goal is to bring you great ideas for youth ministry, while also providing a space for discussion and reflection.
If you are new to the site, or the blog….WELCOME! Take a look around and send us any questions or comments you might have. Each month we have a different theme for the blog. January’s theme is STEREOTYPICAL EVENTS: WHY? Each week we will cover a different event that is common among youth ministries.
Check out today’s question…….
“Camp: Why do it”
Chris Cherry is an ordained minister who received his Masters of Divinity from McAfee School of Theology. He enjoys foosball and skittles, but doesn’t particularly care for static electricity. He is currently serving as Minister to Students at St Andrews Baptist Church in Columbia, SC.
Is there anything better than youth camp? I doubt it.
First, let me lay down my youth camp credentials (or, perhaps, my youth camp bias): I attended 7 years of youth camp as a teenager, I worked camp staff for 3 summers, I have chaperoned 4 youth group camp trips, I have been the group leader for my group at camp 3 times, I have helped train camp staffs, and I have even worked on youth camp curriculum. Camp has been a part of my life in one way or another every year since I was an upcoming 7th grader about to join my church’s youth group. I love camp.
Now, I am the Minister of Students at my church and every year, I sign us up for camp. Outside of camp being fun, engaging, and important for the spiritual growth of youth, there are four main reasons why every youth group should go to camp.
1. Camp connects your youth with youth from all over the country.
What better way to expose teenagers to new people, new thoughts, new church traditions, and new areas of the country than to have them hang out with people their age that bring all that diversity into one place? Youth always finish the week with new friends and new perspectives.
2. Camp accelerates spiritual growth for many youth.
This one is obvious. For an entire week, your youth are hearing about Jesus, learning how to love other people, and applying these lessons to their own lives. When you pick a camp you trust, you can help your students navigate the paths that connect faith to the real world.
3. Camp is generally an all-inclusive week, which means the youth minister can have fun, too!
Sometimes, even the best planned retreats and trips don’t allow much time for the youth minister to kick his or her feet up and just have fun with the youth. Camp allows you to embarrass your youth at the dance party, to get pied in the face for no particular reason, and to have real conversations with youth who may not come to you to talk on a Wednesday night.
4. Camp allows young ministers-to-be to hone their skills by working on a camp staff.
I couldn’t even begin to outline all the things I learned about myself, about ministry, and about God while I worked on camp staffs. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities I had to grow as a young minister by working with groups of incredible youth week after week for several summers in a row. By taking your youth to camp, you’re providing other young ministers these same opportunities.
Camp is one of my favorite events, year in and year out. It’s fun for the youth and it’s fun for me. I know our camp experience makes a difference in our youth and I would encourage everyone to take your youth group to camp.
Sara Clarke Turpin is the Associate Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Buechel Park Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. Her education includes a M.Div. from the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in 2013, along with a B.A. in Religion and a B.S. in Business Administration from Georgetown College in 2009. She was ordained by Buechel Park in March 2014 and has served as a minister with youth for over 5 years. In her free time, Sara enjoys playing the flute, taking walks at the park, exercising at the Y, and binge-watching Netflix shows with her wonderfully supportive husband, Neal.
“Why should I go to camp with you all?” a youth asks of her peers.
“Can’t you do something less expensive?” the finance team asks.
“We already have a lot going on this summer,” his dad comments.
Sometimes when I get questions like this, I’m honestly at a loss for the right way to explain what camp is and does for a group of teenagers. It’s something that doesn’t communicate nearly as well through words as it does through the experience itself. I can tell you over and over again what we will do, what we will learn, and how I believe we will grow closer to one another and to God. However, I’m not sure how much youth, their parents, and churches understand unless they have lived it first-hand.
But I’ll give it a try. While I can’t speak for every camp context, in my experience this is why youth should take the opportunity to attend camp with their youth group.
1. Youth will be discovered.
Ok, so maybe the long-held dream of becoming a famous singer won’t come true at the camp talent show, but youth will discover talents and abilities that they didn’t know they had. Through engaged Bible study and worship, they will discover deeper faith. Through mission work, they will discover strength and determination. Through interaction with others, they will discover new friendships. By the time they leave camp, youth will have discovered so much more about who they are in light of God’s grace.
2. Youth will be challenged.
Camp is not the same as a vacation. Sure, there’s plenty of time to play and disconnect from the everyday. But at camp, youth will be challenged to grow in unique ways. Camp discernment not only helps them to discover who they are, but also encourages them to make steps toward the dreams God has given them. Mission education and work will challenge them to serve others. And almost certainly there will be some activity, song, Scripture, or message that strikes them in a particular way that challenges their behavior, worldview, and/or faith. There’s no telling what awaits each individual at camp, but the challenges will only serve to strengthen them for the journey that continues at home.
3. Youth will be embraced.
Let’s face it – life can be tough. Youth have a lot going on in their lives. But camp is the place to be real with not only who you are, but also what you are going through. It’s the time to open up about those things that cause you pain, the dreams you were afraid to admit, and what you need for healing and restoration. Camp provides the perfect opportunity for youth to connect with a group of people who get it and who are there to embrace them where they are.
4. Youth will be changed.
Youth will return from camp different than when they left. They will be closer to one another, sharing stories, nicknames, and inside jokes unique to their group that will enable them to lean on one another even after camp has ended. Youth will have learned more about self and God and will be unable to dismiss these new insights even as life returns to normal. Some youth will have made decisions at camp – decisions to follow Christ, to pursue vocational ministry, to take on a mission to serve, among other possibilities as God as led them. In some way, small or large, youth will come home bearing a mark of transformation.
Of course, these are only generalizations. God speaks to youth at camp in many unique ways. The only way to know what God will say to you or your youth is to take the step of faith. Go to camp.