Anointed, unplugged and profoundly memorable: Those are words I would use to describe Foursquare summer camps.
But camp means more to me than just a few descriptive words. I was the punk kid who got sponsored to go to camp and gave my life to the Lord. To me, camp means a second chance, life and salvation.
I see hundreds of kids come to camp each year, some of them punk kids like I was, and hundreds of them leave healed, saved, with new life and as world transformers.
As churches across the country gear up for a busy summer camp season, here are the top 11 things Foursquare youth leaders need to know to make sure they’re ready for summer camp and the ministry opportunity it offers.
1. Get your youth there. Camp changes lives. The Lord will move in the hearts of your young people, so be expectant and prayerful, and do whatever it takes to get them there. Sell your blood, or your dog (I have two if you need one)—do whatever it takes.
2. Find sponsors and raise funds. Be relentless in creating opportunity for youth who may not have the resources. Form a fundraising team. Wash cars, sell pizza, have a babysitting night. I would not be serving the Lord had I not been sponsored to go to camp.
3. Don’t discount any youth. Some may come for the wrong reasons—but they may leave camp after experiencing all the right reasons. Don’t discount the young man who wants to attend just because a cute girl is going. Everyone will have their own reasons for going to camp, right or wrong, but our powerful God is not limited to touching only the kids who come with the right intentions. He is able to change their hearts. I went to camp looking to make relationships with girls but left with a relationship with my Savior.
4. Ditch electronics. Camp is a time to be unplugged and undistracted. Prep your youth ahead of time not to bring cellphones or any other electronics. This is a time to get away, build relationships and hear from the Lord. This may be the only time all year your students will have the opportunity to be away in nature, without their cellphones, and experience focusing on God and healthy, Christian friendships.
5. Invest in kids and see impact multiplied. At camp, you get the most bang for your buck. The time you and your leaders invest in your students is exponentially multiplied. Check this out: 52 weeks a year times three hours a week is 156 hours. That is being very generous for the amount of time a youth leader will spend with his or her students during the year. Camp is normally five days long. Multiply that by 24 hours of playing, praying, eating, sleeping, swimming and eating nachos—that comes out to 120 great hours with your students.
6. Roll with the punches. Be prepared for both good and bad memorable moments: from being hurled on from the top bunk in the middle of the night to students’ lives being transformed right before your eyes. Just go with it and laugh when your first instinct may be to cry.
7. Start talking about camp now. Promote camp in the months and weeks before registration is due. Show promo videos. Have a student share a testimony on a Sunday or a youth night about his or her experience and transformation from the year before. This gives students and parents a chance to learn and get excited about camp.
8. Build a strong team of leaders. Consider the leaders you want to bring. Although it is vital to intentionally invite kids to camp, it is just as crucial to bring leaders who have a heart for youth, and can love and influence them.
9. Remember that God is not limited. God is not limited to just moving in the students during this time. He wants to move and change you and your leaders during camp, as well.
10. Prepare for the prophetic. The Lord will speak, call and motivate you and your students. There are countless testimonies of how the Lord has called people into salvation, discipleship and ministry at camp. Don’t be surprised at this—be expectant.
11. Be sure to follow up. God has awesome plans for your students not just during camp, but also for forever. Be ready to disciple your youth when you arrive home. This may be in the form of beginning a new Bible study, prayer time or accountability group. God is not done with them or you yet.
My ministry colleagues and I all agree that we have seen more lives changed and saved at camp than at all other venues combined. Get ready for all the Lord has for you and yours this summer! As Isaiah 43:19 declares: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (NKJV).