Camp month is ending today. I hope it has gotten you excited for the upcoming summer and going to camp with your youth. Remember to be prepared, and engage them in a special week free from most of the distractions of the world. Here are some stories to remind us why we make camp a part of our ministries.
“Share a good camp experience”
Mandy Allen is Youth and Children’s Minister at West End United Methodist Church in West End, N.C. She graduated from Elon College and received her Masters of Divinity from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in 2003. Mandy also works part time as a waitress at at local restaurant and considers this an extension of her ministry. She likes to shop, spend time with family, friends, and her dog, and loves to read. In the near future, she will be purchasing her first home.
All my life I have loved the camp experience as a camper, counselor, and now chaperone and leader. There is something special about going away, being with other seekers and Christians, and allowing God to use that time to draw me closer.
Last year while attending Passport Choices, I had the privilege of participating in a God moment. After the last night, I found one of my “boys” on the stairs in contemplation and emotional. As we talked, he thanked me for bringing him to camp so that he had a space to hear God. It was a “wow” moment for me. I knew we were in the right place at the right time, that it was all worth it. This young man heard God’s voice call to him to about his future—about how he needed to prepare and not be afraid.
Months later I shared this experience with David Burroughs because I wanted him to know how important Passport is to the students. His words were quite different than I expected. David (paraphrase) said to me what we (as leaders) do all year is just as important, if not more important, than one week at camp. That statement made me think.
That moment with my student was very significant in his and my life. However, as a leader, I get to walk beside him (and my whole group) all year long. I get to be a part of the daily God moments.
Today, I am thankful for the mountaintop experiences that God uses as catalysts for the rest of the year. I am thankful for the things God ends and the good work God starts when we take our Youth away and then come home.
Carol Harston has served as Minister to Youth at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, since 2007. Born and raised at Highland, Carol has found the joy of caring for youth in the same community that shaped her as a young person. Outside of youth ministry, Carol has her hands full as a mom to James (3) and Collier (1) and wife to Drew (orthopedic surgery resident and faithful youth volunteer).
He had been on the fringe of the group for days – always far away enough to disengage and live unbothered in his own world. So when he announced he would not bring a bathing suit for the baptism practice, I was not surprised nor did I push the issue. He had not been baptized and has always been cautious of ecclesial traditions. Now that the time was here, he paced around the outdoor pool at Wingate. The rest of the fifteen youth were out in the waters learning the art of baptizing one another with laminated sheets of different baptismal creeds floating next to them. It was our afternoon adventure in the Echo Choices Group at Passport Youth Camp where youth were exploring God’s call to ministry in their lives.
This early decision to stand apart from the group was made before he was near the waters. As he paced around the pool, you could see something within him turning. Perhaps it was the all-powerful draw of a cold pool on a hot summer day. Perhaps it was the smiles on the youth’s faces as this liturgical tradition was experienced with joy and laughter. Or perhaps it was the mysterious tugging of God through the waters.
Moments later, he was drenched – jeans and all – standing in the pool amidst his peers. His face was all smiles, caught up in the moment as the tug of the waters overcame him. Without much encouragement needed, he joined another youth in practicing baptism – baptizing the other boy and then letting the other boy baptize him. He even got out of the pool to participate in the practice of remembering your baptism.
Later that night, fresh from the transformative waters, he opened up to our group – sharing of his struggle with depression. Taken aback from these strong words from such an introverted middle school boy, the youth were in awe of his vulnerability and honesty. Within moments, like dominos, the group followed likewise –living “Life Together” by sharing in the deep pains and struggles of real life. That night, the boy who had been glued to the back row alone for the first three days of camp had felt the transformative power of God’s Love. I found him in the front row for the rest of the week.
God is at work among us – with tugs more powerful than the fears and anxieties that seek to control us. Camp is the gift of concentrated time with youth where the Kingdom of God becomes real. May we follow our youth’s lead – jumping boldly into the pool of transformative love to be forever changed.
Andrew Shaffer is finishing his year as student ministry resident at FBC in Huntsville, AL and will soon begin as youth minister in Dalton, GA. He graduated from Truett Seminary, has worked in Youth Ministry one way or another since 2000, and has been bitten by an otter.
I’ll be honest: I love camp. There’s something about bunk beds and isolation from outside influence that forges community, relationships and chaos like nothing else. Depending on the setting and/or accommodations experiences can differ drastically, but taking a weekend, a week, or longer with a group who eats, worships, and studies the Bible together has an undeniable effect that can only be accomplished in such a setting.
A few years ago I took thirteen 7th and 8th graders to camp for a week. I was immediately out of sorts, as we were set up in a college dorm and had unusually luxurious accommodations like air-conditioning and bathrooms in the same building as our beds. To my amazement our youth did not immediately revert to feral states upon exiting the bus, as middle school tends to do, but kept to their own self appointed cliques of two or three. For the first day and a half they half-heartedly participated, but only stuck to the schedule and avoided “outsiders” like they were contagious.
Around day three or so of camp week is the best; everyone is beginning to get tired, the walls are wearing thin, as is patience – in short, it starts to get real. We can start to see God moving more apparently. It’s sink or swim. This is where a group finds itself or goes nuclear. My group did both.
Mid-afternoon, day three, the monsoon that began early morning stops. Roughly 90% of the group reacts by walking into the grassy common area and wordlessly nodding to begin one of the sloppiest, most disgusting, and most fun games of ultimate Frisbee I’ve ever played. To my surprise ten out of my thirteen played.
A few hours later our group went to worship like they were part of it rather than observing. Something was happening and I was not complaining. Afterward, small group time turned into one of those moments that youth ministers want to reproduce over and over. Everything clicked. Sure, there were tears and the camp staple, “I just love you guys so much”, but once the tears had passed we found a wholly unexpected level. The genuine desire to discuss topics from worship and even prolong Bible study, combined with a deep interest in the other members of our group caught me totally by surprise.
For the rest of the week, our group leaned in fully. They actually wanted to do everything, from the camp-wide talent show to extending small group time into the infamous wee hour conversations. We had become a group. I love camp.