Does Summer Camp Really Work?


In August of 1994 I was sixteen years old and having a blast on our youth group’s yearly trip to camp. It was a week of high-energy fun, great connection with other teenagers, and strong challenges from the Bible. But something was different for me week. I had heard the gospel a thousand times, but that week it was as though God was speaking to me directly in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. During one of the nightly services, I once again heard the G ood N ews of Jesus: that H e died on Calvary’s cross for my sins, was buried and rose again the third day according to the S criptures. And that evening I was arrested by the grace of Jesus and knew that I needed to place my faith in Christ to be my S avior. After the service I left the little chapel, walked out into the darkness and knelt down under a tree and cried my way into the arms of Jesus. God saved me by His great grace. He showed me mercy and forgave me of my sins. And H e did all that at camp. My story is not unique. God has been moving in the hearts and lives of teenagers in summer camp ministries for a long time. Some of you may have a similar story. Like me, the work God did in your heart through the ministry of that camp is still impacting you on a daily basis. BUT DOES IT STILL WORK? A s much as I hate to admit it, I’m not that young anymore. My aching knees and back remind me of that daily. Saying “it worked for me in 1994” doesn’t pack much of a punch today, does it? You know what else worked in 1994? My Sony Walkman. My Nintendo. My VCR. It was a different world back then! MTV still played music videos. The internet hadn’t yet invaded every house on the street. No one had a cell phone. SnapChat technology was still a sci-fi dream. For all intents and purposes 1994 might as well be a foreign country or another planet altogether. Our kids today wouldn’t even recognize it. That sounds a lot like a classic “when I was your age…” story, right? I don’t know about you, but every time I heard my parents utter that phrase I just rolled my eyes and dismissed their words as out of touch and dated. 1994 was 23 years ago. Let’s be clear here. The question that we’re asking is not “ d id it work 23 years ago?” . We’re asking " does it still work today? ". AND THE ANSWER TO THAT IS A RESOUNDING YES! How can I possibly know that? Well, that’s simple. I’ve seen it. Like I said, I’ve had the privilege of being involved in a lot of camp ing ministr ies . In both churches I served, summer camp was a priority. I’ve spent long hours with teenagers at camp, watching as God used that time to bring them to faith in H im. I’ve seen young people find freedom from darkness and strongholds. I’ve seen their hearts begin to soften toward people who have hurt them. I’ve watched many of them surrender their lives to Jesus and commit to following H im wherever He led and to do whatever He asked them to do. I’ve seen their passion for God grow and their desire to serve Him develop. I’ve watched it work. And it’s beautiful. In recent years I’ve had the privilege of being a Bible Hour teacher at the Word of Life Island and g etting to observe firsthand how the Lord is moving in this generation. It is so refreshing to see Him saving and transforming lives. He is still giving hope to the hopeless. He is still setting captives free. He is still healing the broken and hurting. He is still calling out to the next generation of servants to take up their crosses and to follow Him. And they are doing just that – laying down their lives and pursuing Him at all costs. I know camp still works because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. And I’m just as convinced today as I was twenty years ago. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A GOOD SUMMER CAMP? Maybe I have your attention now and you’re considering a camp for this summer season. If you’d be willing to make the investment in your kids or teenagers, I can tell you with confidence that it will be worth the sacrifice. Here’s what you can expect them to get out of the experience: COMMUNITY One of the most encouraging things about camp is the reminder it provides for our teenagers and kids that they are not alone. Standing for Jesus in this culture is more difficult than many of us realize. Day after day our kids are bombarded with messages and value statements that strike at the heart of their Christian faith. For 1

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