Summer Camp Series: When the Music Fades

It is Monday. The bags are unloaded and the vehicles have been vacuumed. Camp is over.

What do you do when you have had an amazing experience with God, but then come back to the regular routine? Can the passion be kept or will our commitments fizzle out in a few weeks?

Here are my thoughts on holding on to what is important.

  1. When you take something out, fill the hole. – During camp or other church events we can make commitments to cut out unhealthy behaviors or habit. This is good! Romans 6 asks if we can keep on willfully sinning as believers. When we intentionally remove certain things from our life we should also intentionally fill the newly vacated time with Godly behavior. The more we can remove the unholy things/attitudes/behaviors in our life and replace them with holy things/attitudes/behaviors the better off we will be. When we make the commitments but do not make a replacement, the probability is that we will fall back into our old patterns.
  2. Emotions are not rock solid identifiers of God’s will.  – Emotions are good. God created us to feel deeply. When we encounter God we are deeply effected. Think of Isaiah in chapter 6 of his book. He said he was “undone”. I gotta believe that is on some level an emotional reaction as well as a spiritual reaction. Even though we need to allow ourselves to feel the move of God, we cannot trust emotions as a solid understanding of God’s will. At a camp or other situations where the music and lights are right and you are just a little sleep deprived, the tendency is toward an emotional response. When the music fades and the lights and smoke are off, what is God still saying? God will confirm His movement. Do you see consistency between what you have heard and what He has already said in His Word? Will older, wiser believers affirm what what they see God doing in your life? Do not trust your emotions, but trust the Bible. God has spoken and will continue to speak through it to you!
  3. Accountably is the key to retention.  – When we really want to make a life change, you have to tell someone what has happened. I know, it sounds simple, but many decisions and commitments are made that are never shared! If you really want to see genuine life change, take the first step by telling others what God is doing in your life. Surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable to your commitments. We were not created to live life alone. God made Adam, and before sin ever entered the world, He said it was not good for him to be alone. God created the Church and told us in Hebrews not to forsake meeting together. We need relationships to live the life God intended us to live. Allow others to really know you and speak truth into your life.
  4. How do you eat and elephant? One bite at a time. – Many times when we experience God in a deep and personal way we (unwittingly) think we cannot have this in “real” life. It can only happen at camps or retreats, but it is not practical for everyday. To live life in the presence of God is a tall order. This style of living is not one you can turn on and off like a light switch. Jesus disciples asked him how to pray. We have to learn how to read the bible. In our spiritual life we draw close to Him through a lifelong process called sanctification. It is a big task, like eating an elephant, but it is worth doing. We start one bite at a time. Set aside time to read your bible and pray. Commit to a local church. Slowly when we persistently practice the things of God we get close to Him. God wants that real close relationship with us everyday! Even without the hype of camp we can live in the presence of God in real life.
  5. Eliminate Distractions – When we leave our normal routine and get focused on God, what do you know, He shows up. What is the difference between that location 8+ hours away and our own hometown? It is NOT that God only chooses to work there. God is the same in both places. The difference is in us, not with God. When we focus on Him and eliminate the distractions we hear His voice more clearly. If you want to continually hear from God, LISTEN! Make intentional time to worship Him each day. Make intentional time to dive into His word and pray. These are the things we do at camp, why can’t we do them at home too!?!

Your fellow worker in the field, Adam

Summer Camp Series: Expository Preaching Works!

This week we have been studying everyday in the book of Hebrews. I know what you are thinking…that is a heavy book for a bunch of teenagers. Well, yes it is, but when we push them I have always found that teenagers rise to occasion. They have been doing great! Soaking up the Truth and letting God speak and move in real ways!

Here are some reasons I like focusing on one book of the Bible at a time:

  • It affirms that all of the Bible is important.
  • It keeps us tied to the Word of God for our content.
  • We never get bored by just focusing on the familiar passages.
  • We are forced to deal with issues I wouldn’t normally choose because the text deals with it.
  • It keeps us connected with the authorial intent; as we track through book we see the overarching themes the author wanted to communicate.

Praise God for faithful teachers of the Word!

Your fellow worker in the field,  Adam

Summer Camp Series: What Camp Does for a Student Ministry

First priority: remember why we are taking students to camp in the first place!

Youth Camp in my church has always been a very important event! Frankly, in my own experience as a youth pastor seeing what God has done in students’ lives at camp that led me to include youth camps as one of the key events of my annual calendar. In case you have not thought about this deeply for awhile, let me share my top four reasons for “pushing” camp with my students! As a youth minister camp is:

THE BEST WAY TO INTRODUCE LOST STUDENTS TO CHRIST: Camps provide a unique 5-day “window” in which unsaved young people can be exposed to the claims of Christ! Think of it! Where else can I get that amount of time in that kind of spiritual environment to “show” an unsaved student what it is like to be part of the eternal family of Christ? They are surrounded by His love, His people, His Word! Hey, they come for the friends, the girls and the sports and recreation, but they could leave with the best friend of all, Jesus Christ!

MY BEST SHOT AT STRENGTHENING CORE STUDENTS: Camps provide the best opportunity to deepen the spiritual walk of my “core students.” Teens are so distracted today with so many things tugging at their busy schedule! Camp is my best shot at getting their undistracted attention for at least a week! During camp, I spend time with my campers re-enforcing their love for Christ.

MY BEST (if not only) HOPE OF BUILDING UNITY: Camps do wonders for the unity of my student group!  Only mission trips exceed the bonding effect of camp, and it is usually more costly to get ALL my students to participate in a mission trip (plus the focus is on others’ needs, not our needs) so that leaves camp as my best opportunity to spend a week building the loyalty, togetherness, and focus of my ENTIRE youth group!

MY BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO PREPARE MY STUDENTS FOR THE UPCOMING SCHOOL YEAR:

Camps help me focus my students both on their commitment to Christ AND on our purpose as a youth group…to glorify Christ by reaching our unsaved friends at school. It is my best time for my group to regain focus before school begins again and we are back into the heavy school-year schedule with plays, sports, clubs, etc. It is my favorite time to ask, “Okay gang, where are we going this year? What do we want Christ to do among us?”

Adapted from Roger Glidewell at Global Youth Ministry.

Summer Camp Series: Why Go to Camp?

Right now I am in Laguna Beach, FL with an awesome group of students and leaders for Summer Camp. Here are some of my thoughts on why a week like this is beneficial for groups of students.

  1. A Fresh Environment: When we drive for 8+ hours we leave the normal routine behind. Students are not hanging with the same friends, playing the same xbox games, doing the same old same old. With this fresh environment  I find openness to a fresh experience.
  2. Avoiding Distractions:  When away from the normal routine we also get out of the normal distractions we allow to dominate our lives. Social media, gaming, friends, are all great, but can easily take our focus away from God. When at camp we are get away from these things and can hear from God in a clearer way.
  3. Saturation in Scripture: A primary factor in choosing where I will take my students to camp is how they handle the Word of God. While at camp we soak in scripture. When we are constantly feasting on God’s Words we hear His voice and see His hand moving in a clear way.
  4. Intentional Prayer: The key to meeting with God is communicating with Him. At camp we take special time to pray for God to speak and move among us…and what do you know…He does! These times refresh us and get us ready for the daily routine when we get back home.
  5. Group Unity: When we are stuck with each other for 5 days straight we get to know one another better and realize that we do genuinely need each other. That is how God created the church. I find when we get away from home and have shared experiences we not only grow in our individual spiritual lives, but we brow in unity as a group. I make intentional times for group affirmation. This small investment pays big dividends when we get back home.

This week be praying that God will move and speak! Thank you for all the parents who have entrusted us with your children!

Your fellow worker in the field,  Adam