Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is / Was Your Youth Camp Cheesy?

I’ve had the privilege of doing a lot of Summer Camp this year. I’ve spoken at 2 camps and my own church’s camp is this week. It’s truly been a blast so far.

To be really honest with you, I think camp is kind of cheesy.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love camp and believe God uses those experiences all over the country to move students towards his heart and I actually enjoy the cheesiness. As I’m staring down the barrel of our camp this weekend here are some things I’m thinking about to embrace the cheese but more importantly position our students where they’ll rub up against Jesus.

Camp should reflect your overall student ministry strategy

In other words, if you’re a ministry driven by adult leaders and small groups, your camp should have those opportunities. If your ministry is highly missional in nature, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to provide some missional experience at camp or at least expose students to injustices in the world. If your ministry is all about production then do that to the max. In fact, it might be better to go to Big Stuff or something that does production at the highest level.

The point is this, your camp should mirror what your priorities are in your ministry. Summer camp isn’t a stand-alone event, it’s connected to the rest of your ministry.

Work hard at having fun

To be honest this is a tough one for me. Fun is a high priority for my ministry, it just can’t be dependent on me to pull it off. This weekend one of our key leaders is the mc. She is absolutely hilarious and extremely fun. If you’re a fuddy dudd like me find someone who is fun and put them in charge.

Camp isn't a destination, it’s a doorway

You know this already, the challenge with camp is helping students process and live out what God does at camp when they get home. What about taking the entire last session or 2 to help students process and imagine what God is going to do when they get home? Many times camp builds towards that “last night” experience. Why not have that experience earlier in the week to help students unpack what God is teaching them and helping them prepare to go home?

If our camp is just about camp and not life change where students live work and play we have missed an incredible opportunity.

Focus on the gospel not the experience

Students (and adults) can easily be lured into worshipping an experience instead of God. The story of what Jesus has done on our behalf must be the centerpiece of every camp no matter what the theme.

Jesus doesn’t only live at your camp location. If students come home embracing the gospel and all that means in their life then their walk with him will have been truly deepened.

So, embrace the cheese and enjoy how God seems to work in a special way at our summer camps. By the way, I met Jesus at our church’s summer camp in Jekyll Island, Georgia. It will be cool to hear stories over the years of how God has worked at your camp this summer.


  1. Some of our most wonderful memories for Wayne and I and our three youngest were the summer camps in FL led by you when you were a youth pastor in Tennessee! Youth Camp, when prayed over and planned, and staffed by people who LOVE JESUS and LOVE KIDS, can be a life-changing experience for the kids and the leaders! As a teen-ager, 107 years ago, :), I made decisions that helped mold me for life. I highly recommend it, (cheese and all!) for everyone!

  2. Yes, those were the days. I actually drove by Seascape a couple weeks ago. Tons of fond memories of God doing some unique things in my life and the lives of kids.

    Thanks for the memories.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, I found it really insightful and put words to some of my thoughts.