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Youth Summer Camp
In a couple of weeks, I get the opportunity to help lead summer camp for our high school and middle school youth groups. This is one of the most exciting things I do during the summer months and I always look forward to hanging out with teenagers for a few days. I’m not sure if it’s all the great activities that we do, the crazy games we play, the great life lessons we learn about the Bible, or the strong friendships that we build that keep me excited about summer camp, but I do look forward to it every year.
I can’t stress how important it is for teenagers to find a church youth group that loves God and takes the extra steps to tackle on summer camp. I’m not sure what it is about camp that creates life-changing experiences. Maybe just being away from the normal pressures of school, neighborhood friends, chores, or just everyday life in general that allows for teens to be themselves in a safe environment and among great friends and leaders who care.
As a teenager, I didn’t get the opportunity to go to a lot of church camps, but there is one I remember very distinctly. It was one that forever changed my life. I was about 14 years old and living in Louisiana. The youth group I attended was at the church on England AFB, outside of Alexandria, because my dad was stationed there. My best friend’s dad was the chaplain at the time and he had invited me to hang out at youth group. After a couple of visits, I started to love it, began to be a regular at the small youth group, built friendships and a desire to learn more about the Bible.
That year, we decided to go down to New Roads, Louisiana for a weekend summer camp. None of us had a lot of money, so we rented out a cabin right off the lake there and hung out for the weekend. I remember, at first, we were told we couldn’t bring any walkman radios or electronic devices with us. Let’s just say I wasn’t too thrilled about it. I wanted to listen to some Def Leppard! When I look back at it, I realize that was really the best thing that I could have done. We had no distractions from the outside world - just our small youth group, our awesome youth leader and the lake.
I don’t remember much more than small clips of the games and activities we participated in, except the last night, which was a Saturday and the worship service we had the next morning. I remember our pastor sitting us down for a Bible lesson, but it turned out much deeper than that. He pulled out his acoustic guitar and began singing/telling the story of Jesus’ sacrifice for us while we sat in a dark room. As he went through the song, he got to the part of Jesus being nailed to the cross. It was intriguing and painful, especially when he came to the actual nails getting pounded into the cross. He described them as he banged his pick against the guitar for each nail. It echoed throughout and with the intensity of the moment in that quiet, dark room, it felt like those nails were going through my soul!
I went to my sleeping bag that evening thinking about those nails all night. I don’t even know if I slept. I started to realize what I was missing in my life. The next morning the pastor led an amazing worship service and offered an invitation to accept the Lord into our lives. At that moment, my best friend and I stepped forward to receive him into our lives. I remember it like it was yesterday and my life has never been the same since.
What experiences have you had at youth group summer camp? I’m willing to bet that many have had similar experiences. I’m really hoping and praying that this year, I can be a part of more life-changing experiences like this!