Getting kids excited for camp seems harder this year. I mean, it’s a challenge every year, but normally we have momentum from kids that went last year helping us convince their friends that it’s worth it, but not this year. This year, our recruiting efforts face challenges that are unprecedented.
But while they may be unprecedented, they are not insurmountable. I’ve actually found it more difficult to get myself excited for camp. I feel tired from a year of “maybe” and “I can’t make it” and “we have to cancel again”. To add to that, we are going to a summer camp that most of our students have already been to, and for a shorter timeframe. Apathy creeps in when I’m sending out club invites or calling parents about camp. I find myself asking, “Is it even worth it this year?”
Here are a few things I try to remember when I’m not feeling as excited about camp.
Kids need Jesus and camp shows his character.
Even if it looks different this year, our friends are going to experience the radical hospitality that Young Life camp is known for. The food, the games, the excellent amenities, and the atmosphere that makes kids feel safe and loved are all still in play for summer 2021. My high school friends will experience God’s extravagant love through the extravaganza of Young Life camp if I am bold enough to pursue them and get them there.
Kids need Jesus and camp removes distractions.
The atmosphere at camp helps me and my high school friends stop scrolling and actually live life. The conversations are set up to leave the shallow end and talk about real things. We experience love that is unconditional and persistent, so the walls and facades we’ve built come down. Because we aren’t distracted by our likes and our performance, we are more likely to see, hear and experience Jesus.
I need Jesus and I get to see him work in my friends at camp.
In my college days, I spent a lot of time at Rockbridge, Young Life’s camp in Virginia. The first thing my co-leader, Dave, would do was take a barefooted in the grass. “This is holy ground,” he’d say. And it is. Thousands of kids go from death to life on those hallowed grounds each year, and I get to be a witness. Camp is a theater of miracles.
The shared experience of camp deepens friendships.
I love the analogy that Young Life leaders are like gardeners. For some kids, we tear the soil (build trust). For others, we plant the seed (share the Gospel). And for others still, we water the plant (discipleship). With five days together at camp, all three can happen. The video below is a great reminder of what this looks like.
Camp makes the Gospel inescapable.
Nobody leaves camp unchanged. As a sophomore in high school, I rallied my best friends to come to camp with me. Some of them began a relationship with Jesus that week. But my friend Ryan, always the skeptic, wasn’t ready to take the leap. Even though he hadn’t become a Christian, Ryan was still impacted because camp exposes some of life’s bigger questions. In the month’s following camp, our leaders pursued him with gentleness and persistence, and he gave his life to Jesus by Christmas.
Take heart, leaders. While the work looks different this year, it is still Kingdom work. Don’t be discouraged by the numbers. Celebrate the one. Don’t give up on the kids who say no; keep pursuing (you can find great resources on not taking no for an answer here). Remember the list above when the going gets tough – and get ready to celebrate. Camp is still worth it!