5 Lessons I (re)learned leading summer camp

Highpoint 2014 Last week I took our high school ministry to summer camp. We've done a variety of versions of camp over the years, and this year we partnered with Expeditions Unlimited to do their house boating trip in Arkansas. It was some of the best ministry done in our group in a long time. Here's 5 things I learned, or learned again, while leading this year's camp.

  1. Students remember facing their fears, so let them face as much fear as possible. We stood at the edge of 18', 24', and 45' cliffs and jumped off into some crystal clear water. For many students, this was a blast. For some, it took every ounce of mental energy and faith to make the leap. But nobody will forget the moment they jumped. So nobody will forget camp.
  2. Program Relationally. This might be the best advice I could give to a first year youth pastor. I know I fell into the trap of "look at what we're doing and how awesome it is!" that my "program" lacked the substance of relationships and was so stressful. But this trip reminded me Gospel ministry thrives when relationships are cultivated.
  3. Cover your expenses. We had to charge the most we've ever charged for a summer camp. And we gave away thousands of dollars in aid for families in need. But the ministry budget took a minimal hit, and that's a huge part of showing responsibility. And I think everyone who went on the trip agreed they'd pay more...
  4. Students crave responsibility. Put them in charge! I talked with one of our Senior guys on the way home and asked him what he loved about the trip. Aside from the usual fun, he said he loved that he had to cook the meals, that students were in charge of docking the boat, and keeping things in ship-shape. I also left the last chapel session open for students to share what God is teaching them and to encourage our group. I tapped a few student leaders on the shoulder and they rose to the occasion!
  5. Keep bringing the day back to God. In prayer, in teachable moments, in your conversations, in worship, in devotions, keep the day coming back to God. On a lake in the middle of nowhere, it was easy. Show students God's goodness and his love. And watch as he blows you away!