I have been attending at least a week of camp either as a high school school student or investing into them as an intern or pastor for the last 24 years of my life. This summer I'm going to 3. One I helped run and two that I'm just teaching at.
- The first was one that I've been helping to run with a group of youth pastors from around the country for the past 6 summers. It's a leadership level camp designed to help committed Christians understand and own their faith in greater and clearer ways. It's called OGN (operation good news) and was June 29-July 5 at the beautiful campus of Pt. Loma Nazarene University here in San Diego. This years theme was AWAKE... and we challenged students to awaken their hearts and minds in new ways to what God is doing in, around, and through them.
- The second was July 6-10 at was at Mt. Hermon's ponderosa lodge - the exact same place that I had either attended or ran a camp for the first 10 years of my 24 year run. I was teaching at a middle school camp this week via the invite of a former college friend who is now running the camp, Charlie Broxton. The theme was "God is Faithful" and we challenged students to lean into God NOW!
- The third is this weekend, July 15-19, and is for a couple of ministry friends who are running a beach camp in Santa Barbara at Westmont College. I've never been there, but dang it looks beautiful. I'm excited for what God has in store for us... we're looking at Jesus' life via the sea of Galilee and calling students to tell a better story by living a better story. I can't wait to see what God will do this week.
So what is it about getting away for a week with students that I love? Heres 6 things off the top of my head:
GREAT CONVOS: There is NOTHING like a week away from the norm for some great ministry conversations and movements. Something supernatural happens in the lives of students in camp and it always provokes the best conversations. Better than almost any other context.
LIFE CHANGE: There is the classic accusation that at camp, students experience a "camp high" where they temporarily make changes only to revert back to the old habits. This is always partly true, simply because camp is like no other place and an "emotional high" is inevitable. But I've also seen time and time again this idea of change being short term proved WRONG! Students do change at camp. Real life change really happens when a student gives a week of their life to intentionally seeking God.
FUN: I love watching and enjoying students having fun. Some of the funniest memories I have are students doing something totally silly at OGN or some summer camp. I LOVED watching my son TJ play in the pool and just be a kid during his middle school camp rec. It made me miss camp rec. I almost jumped in or grabbed the Emcee mic just for old time's sake.
FAMILY BONDING: Some of the biggest blessings I have given my kids as a youth pastor is the chance to go play and enjoy themselves in a "big kid" camp setting. They LOVE it. At OGN my family always joins me on our "free night" and this past week Becky and Billy discovered the difference between "camp" and "camping" and fully enjoyed themselves. (Ty and Jake were attending another camp for their age group at Indian Hills with some church friends)
STUDENTS STEPPING UP: In every camp I've been to, students step it up. This year at OGN, it seemed to be an epic level of stepping up. Our band this year consisted entirely of high school and college age students who led their peers in AMAZING worship. It was beyond belief to me to hear their stories of faith as they started conversations with interested people on the beach, stretched their learning in classes, and threw their very souls fully into worship. This past week, I can't tell you the number of counselor comments (and even a couple from peers) that I heard about what an GREAT job TJ was doing helping to lead a cabin of fairly troubled middle school boys. We just showed up and TJ joined a cabin and stepped up to leadership. It was awesome. I was so proud of him. I love it when students step it up!
SUPERNATURAL UNEXPLAINABLE STUFF: Seriously, when students take risks at Camp, God catches them. He just does. If you haven't been to camp in a while, then sign up. Seriously, go counsel or help administrate or drive a bus... or something. Just get there. God will rock your world as you watch and participate with young people chasing after Jesus.