Changing Lives through Camp Ministry
Swimming, canoeing, wide games, singing around the campfire are all great activities at camp. Camp is also a great place for adventure activities like high ropes, wakeboarding, horseback riding and many other exciting opportunities that many would not be able to enjoy otherwise. These adventures, only make up a small portion of why camp ministry really exists. The most important part of camp is that it impacts lives for the Kingdom and lays a foundation for future generations.
Camp is so much more than fun and games. It is an opportunity for children and youth to interact with people that care about them. The twenty-four-hour experience allows us to put our guards down and be real with one another. And when Christians are real, we are able to see Christ shine through. We are able to break down barriers and experience real change.
A few years back we had Toronto City Mission at our camp for their first March Break camp. They brought many young people that they had been working with from the inner core of Toronto. At the end of the weekend, Elita Fung stated, “I was able to accomplish more in this weekend then I have been able to do in the last 5 years working with these girls.” The camp experience allowed Elita to break down the barriers, build strong relationships and a level of trust that resulted in 9 decisions for Christ by the end of the weekend.
Camps provide an opportunity to be removed from the distractions of life and experience God in His creation. The stars, the water, the moon, the fire flies, the sounds of crickets and crackling fires. All of these things force us to slow down and know that God is real and amazing. As a result, many commitments to follow Christ happen at camp.
According to a study by Barna group, 64% of Christians made the decision to follow Christ by their 18th birthday with another 13% making the decision by 21. Each summer at camp, we continue to see decisions for Christ. The great thing at Ignite Camp, is that the groups we work with continue to have contact with the youth and children they bring to camp. Allowing them to disciple their campers year round.
Youth and children coming to faith in Christ is exciting, but we also want them to grow in their faith. That is why it is important to follow up with campers and get them plugged into local church. Involvement in the church is so important in developing a relationship for ongoing ministry in the lives of children and youth. Church involvement in camp ministry is vitally important, too often, we are seen as separate ministries, when in fact it would be far more effective to develop a partnership, where we work together to train and disciple new Christians in their faith.
According to the study, Renegotiating Faith, which came out this summer, camps play a significant role in keeping youth grounded in their faith through the college and university years. In addition, the research shows that camp plays a significant role in keeping young people active in the church. In fact, for those that attended camp as a child, they are twice as likely to attend church on a weekly basis after university (34% vs. 16%). If they worked as a camp staff, they are three times more likely to do so (46% vs. 17%).
When we factor in the number of young people that are leaving the church once they reach university, it is clear that we need to focus our time and resources into providing camping opportunities for our young people. Camp also allows for a greater friend network, more time spent in relationships, and more time spent away for the business of regular life. All these factors are helping to better prepare children and youth for life and for a lifelong relationship with Jesus.
We should also see the great possibilities camp ministry has for the whole church. At Ignite Camp, we see groups of all ages, with many different focuses. From youth and children camps that fill our summer, to recovery groups, alpha groups, men’s, women’s, seniors, university campuses and many more. There are many ways for the church to utilize the camp experience to grow their ministry.
Camp ministry is far more than a get away from the city for fun and excitement. It is a tried and tested ministry model that makes a lasting impact on those who attend. Whether it is children that are exposed to the Gospel and respond at a young age, youth that are developed into leaders through a summer staff experience, or retreat groups that grow in their relationship with God and one another. There is no mistaking the impact camp has on those who attend.
The question going forward is, if we know that camp ministry builds community, is a great place for evangelism, helps with discipleship, and ultimately builds the Kingdom of God, why is it not a primary focus of our ministries? Each church and ministry is looking for ways to have greater impact and to create lifelong followers of Jesus. The time has come to invest in camp ministries like never before, because as we do we are investing in people and the Kingdom of God.
Barna Group: Evangelism is most effective among Kids
Research Releases in Family & Kids, October 11, 2004
Blackaby Renegotiating Faith: The Delay in Young Adult Identity Formation and What It Means for the Church in Canada Rick Hiemstra, Lorianne Dueck and Matthew