By Jay Barbier,
Evangelism Event Specialist, TBMB
The answer: Camp changes everything. I wholeheartedly believe in the benefit of camp! Camp experiences change lives. I’m talking about camps that focus on Jesus; this changes the what and the why. Jesus-focused camps help develop students for the rest of their lives.
Let’s break this down into three main issues: foundation of faith, fellowship and community, and accountability. These, I believe, are the key factors that set camp apart.
This is not an exhaustive list but something I’ve learned as a youth pastor, as a participant, and probably most importantly, as a father of teenagers! Honestly, being a father of teenagers has taught me a tremendous amount of life lessons. I’m always looking for others to influence my children in the teachings and love of Jesus. Camp helps me accomplish this but I have to be very careful what and where I choose. These are the focus points of what I look for as a minister and as a parent.
Faith is the first and most important element of camp. The foundation of faith learned through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and small groups can and should happen daily at camp. Be sure to check out the doctrinal beliefs of the organization you choose, do they line up with what you believe, and more importantly do they line up with Scripture.
As a camp leader, this is what gets me excited. I love the opportunity to set the tone of a camp with the focus on Jesus and His Word. I believe the experience of worship and Bible study at camp stick with students for the rest of their lives. The environment created welcomes students to engage with Jesus by hearing from Him, honoring Him, and communicating their hearts to Him.
The second focus is on fellowship and community. Camp provides new and old relationships that can impact a student for a lifetime. Scripture teaches us that is very important for the people of God to gather. Camp allows students an opportunity to build relationships with others, and many of these relationships will last throughout their school experience.
Community is built in a group when you can change your environment, leaving the commonality of the place you know and going somewhere that helps focus on Jesus and helps draw in the bond of the group. This provides a group with time — and time is the most valued commodity in the world. It’s the one thing we can never get back. So, be sure to make the most of what you have. Engage with the group but also teach students the importance of friendship.
Think about this: Most churchgoers will give you one or two hours a week at church and with holidays, vacation, sickness and other activitites, this adds up to a person giving the church 48 weeks. Break that down into either 48 hours at church or maybe, on a high end, 96 hours in a year. Keep thinking, our faith training and gathering gets the least focus out of a lot of our activities. That’s why I believe camp is important.
At camp, a student will have more time with the fellowship and community of believers than the entire year of other gatherings at church.
Thirdly, accountability at camp is laid out in front of every student! See, you have a designated schedule and structure for each day. Many followers don’t have this set up in their personal lives.
At camp, a system of people is set up to lead, guide, and direct. Camp counselors, leaders, and many others continually point the student in the direction they need to go. They also give their time to talk with students and this is something almost every teen desires. They just want our time. Hopefully experiencing this allows the student to see the importance of structure but most importantly the importance of accountability. One of the most important things taught to me over the years was that I could not expect what I didn’t inspect. Accountability is crucial for a life in Christ.
Why camp? It matters in a student’s life. The Reaching Tour, which explores and records the best practices in evangelism and discipleship from churches across Tennessee, revealed that churches that are baptizing, growing and making a difference are involved in student camps. Several recent books on faith revealed that students that stick in church after their high school years had personal investment from others and most important, they went to camp.
Here at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, we offer children and youth camps. We would love the opportunity to serve you!
— For information about TBMB camps, contact Barbier at firstname.lastname@example.org.