For those who have grown up in a church, camps frequently feature in the highlights of that experience. As you reflect back, great memories, formative experiences and key friendships easily go hand in hand with camping. However, when the shoe is on the other foot and it is your responsibility to run a camp for the children or youth you minister to, suddenly camps can seem like too much hard work. The planning and preparation involved in looking after an unpredictable group of young people for way more than a couple of hours, in a place where sleeps seems frequently optional. The appeal beings to wane.
So why do camps at all? In short, camps are a great complement to regular weekly meetings (or however often your group meets) for youth or children. They can even do a lots of things your regular meetings cannot. Here are six reasons to consider running a camp for young people.*
Psalm 133 describes how good it is when God’s people hang out together, and camps can be a place to demonstrate just this. On camps, you have the opportunity to build a world around the Gospel, so they become a taste of what Gospel living is like. This is great for Christians AND those who don’t know Jesus. Your group gets to be reminded why following Jesus is so good, or they get to experience first hand the difference that Jesus makes. Christian community is attractive, because it is about Jesus.
2.SUSTAINED GOSPEL TEACHING
Camps provide a vehicle to deliver multiple Bible talks in a short period of time. Young people get to be saturated in God’s Word, rather than have Bible ‘bites’ over a term. There is just more space and time to get stuck into what God has to say. In fact, dwelling in God’s Word is so often the highlight for many young people on camps.
3.LEADERS ALONGSIDE YOUNG PEOPLE
A weekend camp has the same amount of contact as a term-long weekly program. Yet, the nature of camps means that leaders get to ‘do life’ alongside young people. A two-way window into life is provided and this, combined with the volume of time, creates a recipe for momentous Jesus-filled conversations.This means leadership matters on camp – choose your leaders wisely and keep the invite open to older Christians, couples and families, not just time-rich young adults!**
Shared memories are powerful tools in the forming and continuation of relationships. An experience shared provides the rich soil for deep, life-long friendships, especially memories that share Jesus.
Whether it is a combined group camp, or just your group getting away on their own, the time away forges and consolidates your group identity. Your group gets a better sense of itself, and owning its members. This is particularly good for any new friends that have been invited, who are able to get a sense of belonging as they consider Jesus.
6.MEETING THE FAMILY
One of the excellent benefits of having a camp that brings a number of groups together, is the joy that comes from realising that this whole Jesus thing is bigger than you, and the people you see each week. Young people are reminded that we are part of a larger, more diverse Christian family, who are connected deeply because of Jesus. If we are a family that genuinely loves and cares for each other, then we don’t have to be afraid of introducing newcomers to the family!
If you are considering how to help your group grow more deeply in their Christian fellowship, then it is worth thinking about including a camp in your program. Your regular group time can benefit greatly from this sustained time together, as they spend time in God’s Word and with each other.
You could start with something simple like an overnight stay, and build from there. If you are thinking about running a camp away, then YNET can help! YNET is a network to help local churches as they minister to young people. This involves assisting groups to run their own camps or connect their group with other groups and have a combined camping experience. Their are plenty of opportunities to bring your group along to a camp, and below are some of the dates for 2016.
*Really, there does not need to be an age restriction!
**As part of choosing wisely, always make sure leaders have a Blue Card (or relevant Working With Children accreditation for your location) and have completed Child Safety training before they are involved in a camp.