I have gotten the privilege this summer to spend time at three Kentucky Changers projects and two weeks of Crossings camps. It has been an amazing experience to see firsthand the Spirit of God work in the lives of students and adults in all these places. And if we are not proactive the commitments and experiences made at camp and on mission trips will soon be a distant memory.
A couple of thoughts flood my mind as I think about youth ministries moving from the hecticness of the summer to the normalcy of the fall.
One of the things we can do to help build on the decisions made at camp is to continue to find time for the adults in our church to spend time with our students. To me this is one of the greatest parts of the summer. Our students get to build lasting relationships with adults and see what the Christian life looks like after youth group. Our students probably aren’t cognitively aware that is happening, but for us to take one of the best aspects of camp and incorporate it into our ministry can only be beneficial to our students. Those relationships, the fun things that are done are a trip, those idiosyncrasies that every adult volunteer brings to youth group adds richness to your ministry that can’t be duplicated anywhere else.
Help parents be the spiritual advisor they need to be with the students. Each family dynamic is different and each family will be different in how we help parents be the spiritual mentors they need to be with their students. Plan a night, an afternoon, a post worship dessert fellowship where students can begin to unpack the camp experience and how they saw God work around them. You may have to prompt the discussions with leading questions and activities, but anytime we can get students and parents talking about how God is working in their lives we are making eternal significance.
Embrace the memories-I still remember counting “JB Hunt” trucks while traveling across the country with the students at Edgewood. It was one of the things that our bus driver Gary Shaw did to pass the time. It wasn’t long until about every student on our bus was looking for JB Hunt trucks. We’d be driving along and you would hear someone shout out JB! , and you knew another one had been spotted. It’s been eight summers since I traveled anywhere with Edgewood, but I still find myself wanting to scream out JB!, when I spot one on the road.
I still remember being a student at Little Flock church in the late 1970’s and the summers we spent at Camp Joy in Brownsville. From the water fight that took three feet of water out of the pool, to almost being sent home for openly defying the dress code (I’m sure some girl put me up to that), to sitting in “heaven’s keyhole” around the campfire were several of us made long term life changing decision, to a morning Time Alone with God when I heard God call me to ministry.
One of the things I notices at Crossings was at the end of every week the youth leader was handed a huge framed picture of his/her group. I had seen them hanging in the hallways of several churches, but it hit me while watching it happen on the last day of camp, how that picture could always serve as a reminder of what happened at camp. If your camp or missions trip leadership didn’t provide you with one, create one yourself. Hang it proudly in the youth area of your building to remind yourself and your students of what God did at that time in that place.
While some of those memories are about fun times other are Ebenezer moments that we need to help our student to embrace. It is those Ebenezer moments that we need to help our students return to when life happens around them.