Camp High Rehab
As summer smashed into us like a dodgeball into that one student who didn’t want to play, the season brings summer Bible studies, pool parties, more meetings with students, and leaders, and parents. Most prominently, summer brings camp. And along with camp comes the barrage of blogs that celebrate the time with students, denounce the ineffectiveness of the experience, and discuss every related topic and opinion in between. However, the most common topic is the ever-present camp high debate. Each summer students are charged with emotion, dedicating or rededicating their lives to Christ, swearing off sin, declaring huge commitments, but often this emotional charge fades with the summer heat and a cold winter looms once again. This cycle of passion and passivity has led many to decry the dreaded camp high as a detriment to faith, even some have abandoned camp altogether.
It is true that mere emotional experiences cannot sustain a life-long commitment to Christ. The camp high will drop and so will the faith built upon it. But what if we’re looking at it all wrong. It’s true that sweeping emotional responses can’t sustain faith, but I have had similar experiences lead me to make decisions that resulted in deeper and richer faith throughout my life. It was on a high school mission trip that I first thought about entering ministry, I was rejoicing in similar experiences when I applied to seminary, I even proposed to my wife because I felt excited to be with her! Faith cannot be built on emotions alone, but emotions are real, and when we shepherd our students properly, emotional experiences can be exactly what God is using to grow their faith. We must work harder at preparing for the time that follows camp; it’s a tremendous opportunity for discipleship.
I believe there are three ways we can begin to steward these times in the lives of our students to draw closer to Christ.
Recognize the Presence of God
If you are planning a camp or retreat for this summer, then you believe that there is great spiritual benefit to gathering students together for an extended period of time, away from the many distractions of normal life, and focusing more intently on God. Don’t underestimate the depth of these experiences. If we are praying for God to stir in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, we should expect this to be a profound time that affects our students’ thoughts, actions, and emotions. We must not negate the experiences if they carry intense emotional impact, nor should we write-off less emotional responses from students. We must work to help them understand the depth and breadth of their experiences, regardless of the intensity. The Spirit of the living God is at work.
Set Short-Term Goals for Discipleship
Following camp, students are enthusiastic to change, focus their lives more intently on Christ, and take their faith more seriously. Help them make practical short-term goals that they can accomplish as the summer comes to an end. The feeling of success before school starts will encourage them to make more goals for the school year. Goals should be specific and practical. A student that has never read the Bible, shouldn’t try to read the whole thing before August. Praying for an hour everyday sounds nice, but 10 minutes each morning might be more realistic and still a vast improvement. Help your students by setting goals they can accomplish, stretch them far enough to grow but not so far they break. Failure at these goals will likely lead to no change and a reminiscent desire for “things to be like camp again.”
Cast a Long-Term Vision for Faith
As youth ministers, our main goal should be to help teens envision a faith that stretches beyond high school, beyond the walls of our church and into the rest of their lives. As summer ends, and camp high fades, help students understand that our faith continues on. The emotions change, but the truth remains the same, Jesus remains the same. Help them understand that a life-long commitment to Christ will have ups and downs, but growing closer to God means holding fast through all of it.
A.C. Caswell is the Pastor of Student Ministries at Camelback Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ. He has passions for reaching students with the Gospel and for developing more leaders to work together in this mission. You can connect with him on Twitter @elsietevii.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.