How Camps Support Healthy Youth Ministries

By: 

Jeb Egbert

We have a camp ministry that serves children, teens and college-age young adults. Most of the camps are held during the summer, but others occur at other times of year.

Youth ministry back home

The leaders of our camp ministry want to be more intentional about integrating the incredible ministry that occurs in a camp setting with the essential youth ministry that occurs back home. But how is this done?

With camps close to home, parents will have firsthand opportunities to see a camp in action. Almost all of our camps report that parents could observe camp in operation. Parents have told me how grateful they were for the support to their family ministry that the camp provides.

Another way to support the congregation is to encourage campers to not only take back the energy they may have experienced at camp, but look for opportunities to support their pastor. Whether helping with the sound system, assisting with music ministry or engaging in peer-to-peer ministry, campers and staff are encouraged to go back to their congregations and find a way to make a difference.

Youth-oriented evangelism

Camps are outstanding venues for youth-oriented evangelism. Pastors and members involved in outreach activities are urged to point unbelieving youths toward our camps. They are youth-friendly Christian havens that have helped many nonbelievers develop relationships with Jesus.

Camps can assist the congregation by helping young believers begin to be established in foundational Christian beliefs. Most camps follow a curriculum designed to teach basic truths of the gospel. This is an important benefit of camp ministry in a time when many young Christians are bombarded by conflicting and confusing messages about what Christianity is all about.

Camps help keep young people connected in an expansive network. Many young people continue to network with their camp friends years after camp.

One of the greatest opportunities for linkages between camp and the congregation occurs through the staff. Camp staff volunteers are immersed in the camp experience where they learn important youth ministry skills. They return home with a spiritual enthusiasm that can have many positive benefits within the congregation.

Camps thus serve as a means for building and equipping young spiritual leaders. Counselors and other staff members receive hours of focused training to help them better serve campers in their care. Many methods taught to camp staff for use in a camp ministry setting are relevant for youth ministry within a congregation.

Pilot programs

At some of our camps, people who have a passion for youth ministry take classes in how to engage in youth ministry, and then they participate in camp ministry, where they can immediately apply what they have learned. At some camps, members of all ages can join with the campers for the last days of camp to see youth ministry in action and experience the joy of youths leading the church in worship.

Because the role of volunteer staff members at camp is so powerful, we hope that each congregation will find a way to encourage a member to apply to the closest camp to serve on the staff. We seek to partner with pastors to ensure that those staff members who go to camp are given opportunity to bring what they learn back to the congregation.

Another advantage of our camps is that so many volunteers with diverse experiences come together and share those gifts at camp. Camp directors take those methods that appear to bear the most fruit in the camp setting and build on them.

Camps are an important part of our youth ministry. We are working to ensure that it complements ministry in the family and the local church. We invite your suggestions on how we can improve this linkage.

Jeb Egbert

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