The Post-camp Letdown

Youth Specialties
August 5th, 2016

In my few years in youth ministry, I’ve noticed a bit of an epidemic taking place—and from my conversations with others in youth ministry, it seems to be wide-spread. It’s an annual event, typically occurring sometime in late summer or early fall, right around the time school is back in session.

I call it the “post-camp letdown.”

The narrative goes something like this: we spend large amounts of time, energy, and even money begging and pleading students to join us at summer camp. They submit to our border-line threats and come with us. At some point during the week, they have a life-changing experience (a real one…not one of those Thursday night emotion-induced encounters resulting in puddles of tears and snot). Maybe it’s a student’s recognition, confession, and repentance of sin. Maybe it’s a student forgiving someone who sinned against them. Better yet, maybe it’s a student placing his or her trust in Christ for the first time.

Whatever the experience may be, it was real.

At least it seemed real. But sometime around August or September, when our students are back in the routine of school, sports, and other extracurricular activities, we begin to doubt that experience.

We hear the stories from their peers. We see the tweets and pics on Instagram. We notice their appearance in youth group is increasingly sparse and we can sense the apathy when they do decide to show up. The post-camp letdown is in full effect.

I, like you, have watched in discouragement as students went from white-hot, to lukewarm, to oftentimes downright cold in weeks and months following summer camp. It’s in this seemingly universal youth ministry phenomenon that I wish to offer a bit of encouragement.

A couple of years ago I stumbled across the best book on ministry that I’ve ever read, “The Christian Ministry” by Charles Bridges. The best part of the book? It was written in the late 1800s! Tucked away inside the pages filled with practical and surprisingly relevant content was one little gem of a sentence that has largely changed outlook on ministry:

“Ministerial success must be viewed as extending beyond present circumstances. The seed may lie under the clods until we lie there, and then spring up.”

I’ve sought to apply this encouragement to my entire approach to youth ministry, but let us for a moment apply it specifically to the post-camp letdown. Just because a student has a life-changing experience at camp only to fade back into the routine does not mean that his or her life was not genuinely impacted. It very well could be that a seed was planted or a relationship was formed that, in time, produces incredible fruit.

[bctt tweet=”The best growth takes time to be fully realized.” username=”ys_scoop”]

Sanctification tends to be a slow process. Transformation occurs from one painstakingly slow degree of glory to another. I believe that sometimes sanctification seems even slower for those of us left to watch the growth of those entrusted to our care! But brother and sisters, take heart! In this post-camp season when discouragement and doubts seem to pop-up so regularly, let us remember that he who began a good work in our students will bring it to completion!

jonas larkin headshotJonas Larkin is the middle school student pastor at Oak Hill Baptist Church in Somerset, KY. He enjoys his family, good books, coffee in the morning, and all things Kentucky Wildcats. You can find him online at jonaslarkin.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @jonaslarkin.

Youth Specialties

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