From school shutdowns to full-on quarantine, 2020 was a wild ride of change, and student ministry was no exception. Changing plans, then changing them again and again, and finally canceling most events had all of us wondering if we would ever be able to meet again on a normal basis. All the changes caused challenges, but the change that had the biggest impact on student ministry might have been having to cancel M3 camp last summer.
Camp has a unique way of affecting our students. The most important reason we bring students to camp is for them to hear the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s face it, there are students (and we all have them) who are not going to attend a midweek service, and you can forget about a Sunday morning. This is where camp comes in. Camp is the tool that we use to get these students to hear the gospel. Camp gets these students out of their day-to-day lives and into a place where God moves. I once asked a group of parents, “How many of you were saved at camp?” Over half of the group raised their hands. It was a wonderful testimony to the fact that God moves at camp. He has for decades and he still does. Our students’ lives are changed at camp because it is a place where they encounter God, and their daily distractions aren’t as accessible to them.
Another way that camp affects students is that it builds community. I will never forget my first camp experience as a student minister. That summer, people at camp built relationships, confessed sin and unified around the gospel in a profound way. Camp speeds up the process of building community. During REC, campers unify around winning the title of “REC Champs” by being the loudest, most spirit-filled team in all of camp, and winning, of course. (Trust me, it’s a title worth fighting for.) As silly as it is, I have seen leaders rise up during REC time and unite an entire student ministry around this purpose. Then there is church group time after evening worship, where community building is at its strongest. This time is when students share what God is doing in their lives, confess sin and rally for one another in prayer and accountability. God has a way of unifying students at camp that does not usually happen week to week.
If there is anything we have learned from 2020, it’s that camp is vital to our student ministries. In helping students hear the gospel away from their daily lives, getting them to a place where God moves and community is quickly fostered, camp is essential. God has used camp in the past to change the lives of students, and he still does today. See you at camp in 2021!