For many student ministries, camp is the main event of the year—the opportunity to take your students away from all the distractions of their regular day-to-day and saturate them in a retreat setting that is completely focused on God. Sowing all year usually brings reaping at camp. Is it that God is more dense at camp? Definitely not, rather, camp is so effective because students give God the time He deserves. And this is unquestioned momentum in any student ministry! So, what are the things to consider when looking for a good camp ministry?
A Heartbeat That Partners With Your Ministry Vision
Camp is not a vacation. It’s not an opportunity to drop your students off for a spiritual experience only to pick them up a week later finding them completely spiritually mature. No, camp is a partnership with another ministry that focuses on a couple things well: introducing the lost to Jesus and challenging those who know Christ to go deeper with their faith. Does that vision sound familiar? Hopefully it sounds similar to exactly what any student ministry is trying to be faithful in weekly. Find a great partner in a camp ministry that propels vision in your ministry!
The bottom line seems to always drive a decision. The truth is, camp is expensive no matter which one you choose. Camp is almost impossible in many ministries without fundraisers… but that is not a bad thing! Camp is expensive because the things needed for camp are expensive—it takes a decent amount of cash to put students in a different setting and context for the goal of seeing God in a whole new way. Fundraisers, when done correctly, are vital in teaching students very important lessons on stewardship. This, partnered with the fact that fundraising can spur great unity in a healthy ministry, you can’t afford to not fundraise in more ways than just raising funds.
Care For You and Your Family
To feel cared for isn’t just a feeling. Devotion to serving well is something a camp ministry has to have. So often, a dark side of ministry sees church attendance as simply numbers. For camp ministries, they have to run effectively with numbers in mind to sustain a workable business model, but youth ministries can’t be treated as just numbers. Find a camp ministry that LOVES to care for you and your students in big ways and small.
Taking parent-entrusted students to a far-off land can be terrifying. In general, camp itself can be very intimidating from the start of the process all the way to arriving at check in the first day. Number crunching, fundraising, forms on forms, and transportation details are enough to deal with. What’s worse than having all those things plus trying to coordinate with a camp ministry that doesn’t have their business in order. Aside from details, there’s nothing worse than getting to camp and feeling very much on your own. Organization within a camp ministry is vital to fuel a successful trip. Find a camp ministry that does this right.
Camp is fun! Don’t let anyone tell you differently. And a camp facility can make or break a trip. You have the opportunity to get your students excited about camp simply by a location you sell it with before they even know anything else about it. One of the biggest perks of camp is taking students to a destination they wouldn’t normally find themselves in. Mountains, bodies of water, forest, ranch, beach, or just a solid conference center, choose a camp location that gets students hyped to go and includes fun in the itinerary. God created fun, let Him use it to engage your students as He then stirs the spiritual affections of their hearts.
Staff That Create True Heroes: YOU
Coming into the context and setting of camp, the camp staff already have street cred with students simply because they have a staff shirt or lanyard. It’s a strange phenomenon really. Camps that train their staff to not take your students from you but rather push them toward you are incredible. Camp staffers love to get the opportunity to pour into students but the camp ministries that really understand ministry understand that you—students’ leaders at home—will be there for them when camp is over as the staff will not. A staff that gives their street cred to you and your volunteer leaders is a staff that has a heart to see authentic change in students over the long haul.
Find a Camp You Could See Your Students Working
Honestly, there are not many things like camp. It’s frontline, high octane ministry. A highlight reel of reaping from a whole lot of sowing. As your students graduate out of your ministry, it’s every faithful student pastor’s prayer that students don’t graduate from their faith. Discipleship means discipling others and hopefully their spiritual maturity is evident as they move on to what is next. Getting into a solid camp ministry network gives you the opportunity to point your students toward a “next” that looks like giving up a summer to serve the local church. Serving in the local church is vital, but getting a chance to serve the local church itself for an entire summer can be a game-changer. Find a camp network that you can see yourself sending your crop too. Rooting for your former students to serve your current students is a dream come true!
Interested in learning more about LifeWay Students camps? Take this quiz to find which one might be right for your group!
This post was written by Robb Hollifield. Robb serves as the senior high student pastor at Cross Creek Church in Fountain, CO. In addition to his role at Cross Creek, Robb serves weekly in a local skateboard ministry called P.R.O.C.E.S.S. in Colorado Springs.