In a million years, I never thought I would be working at a Christian camp doing youth ministry. Four years ago, I was convinced that Christian camps were dying. I honestly thought Christian camp ministry was outdated, irrelevant and clueless. I was sure that Christian camps didn’t understand their role in the big picture of youth ministry. This is one of the many reasons I stopped taking my high school group to a Christian camp when I was a youth pastor.
Now I am the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at Mount Hermon, a Christian camp. I love my job and I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of camp ministry in the lives of students. In fact, it was Mount Hermon’s vision for three vital partnerships that enticed me into doing youth ministry in a camp setting. I now believe, more than ever, that youth ministry needs camping ministry. However, youth ministry needs camping ministries that understand their role in the big picture of youth ministry.
For camp ministry to maximize it’s impact in the lives of students and fit into the big picture of youth ministry, it has to foster and build three main partnerships throughout the year:
- Parent partnerships--Camps must realize that parents have the primary responsibility for discipling students. First and foremost, youth ministry is not a camp’s job and it’s not the church’s job, it’s the parent’s job. This means that camping ministry has the privilege of figuring out creative ways to communicate and partner with parents both before and after a student attends camp. The more parents know about their student’s camp experience, the better.
- Church partnerships–Christian youth camps must also realize that they exist to serve the church. Youth workers in the local church are the ones who will see, and minister to, these students the other 357 days of the year. That being said, we can’t expect that 1 week, or weekend, out of 51 is enough to sustain students in their faith. Any decision made at camp needs to be reinforced and worked out in the community of the local church. This has to be kept at the forefront of our minds as we plan out and execute camp programming.
- Student partnerships–It’s great for camps to follow up with students if they understand the importance of the first two partnerships. However, all of our work with students should strive to connect them with two main things: the Word of God and the People of God. For camp to be more than just a mountaintop experience for students, they must get connected to God’s Word and God’s people. If we can help them take steps towards doing this, we can help them draw closer to the God who loves them more than we could ever imagine.