I love Christian summer camp. (You can check out my reasons here: Why I Love Summer Camp). I also love bringing teenagers to conferences and retreats. These are big in the building blocks of their faith. If you’re like me, you find yourself saying far too often for each and every upcoming spiritual event that it will be “life changing” and can’t be missed. Why do we say that? Probably because we believe it! The potential is truly there for a life-altering encounter.
As a teenager, I remember various points in my year when I’d tell myself, “Camp Shiloh isn’t too far off. Just make it to Camp Shiloh and everything will be ok…”
It was as if I could only survive and thrive in my Christian faith by going to summer camp. Have you ever been in that mode of thinking? If I can just make it to...
You probably have. Then we mature in our faith and learn to walk out our faith on a day to day basis. Sure, the camps, conferences and retreats are great boosters for us, even at our leader status age. But they are not necessary for our spiritual survival.
So many of our youth find camps, conferences and retreats necessary to their spiritual survival. When Saturate was just days away, I can’t tell you how many posts I saw concerning this spiritual survival mode. Posts about how it couldn’t have come at a better time or how they just needed to get there and things would be better. Plus the “I so need Saturate right now” posts.
I totally get a young person’s perspective. That’s why we take them. They NEED it; it’s a great boost. And I’m glad they’re excited. I’m thrilled they want to go. It delights me to see how our teenagers see a need for camps, conferences and retreats in their lives. Especially since we tend to stray away from that as we start adulting…(the ever so good excuse, I can’t take time off surely gets in the way, as does family responsibilities and other such things…).
I totally see where teens are coming from. However, my heart is this: don’t stay there! I have a young girl who’s about to graduate. She’s been camping out for years now in the camp and conference spiritual survival mode. It’s what gets her thru.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Camps, conferences and retreats should be a boost for us for sure. An encouragement. A refresher. But not survival. Jesus wants to bring us into a DAY TO DAY relationship with Him that is invigorating, refreshing, challenging and so much more. He wants to teach us to walk with Him in the ups and downs of life. There are days our relationship is thrilling and grand; and there are days it’s mundane or even seems non-existent. But He’s still there. He hasn’t changed. And He wants to develop a constancy in our faith during those seasons, no matter the season.
I’m with you pastors, youth pastors and volunteer leaders. Camps, conferences and retreats definitely help. But they aren’t THE answer. We know this even when we’re selling these events as a must attend or else. We know this because Jesus is the legit answer. Children’s church cliche or not, that’s the truth. An encounter with Jesus is the key. Not just a one time encounter. Not just loud worship, big name speakers and hype, but a relationship that brings us to that personal encounter time after time after time. I pray for my youth. I pray they get this; grab ahold of this; live this. I pray that maturity comes. Until then, I keep bringing them to camps, conferences and retreats.
We are in this together my friends. And just remember, a great model of this constancy, this day to day Jesus relationship, is seen in you! Paul wrote to the believers several times in the New Testament and said “imitate me as I imitate Christ;” your life has that same leverage and impact.
My pastor heart’s prayer for your youth and mine is simply 3 John 4 (MSG):
Nothing could make me happier than getting reports that my children
continue diligently in the way of Truth!
Laurie serves as the co-pastor of New Testament Christian Church in Rochester, NY and has over a decade of full time youth ministry experience under her belt. She juggles a variety of tasks that extend beyond the local church. Laurie is a director for Camp Shiloh’s summer youth camps; serves on 2 national youth ministry boards; helped start a mentoring program in a local public high school; has taught abstinence courses in several local public schools; coached 3 different sports on the high school level for 10 years; and is called upon regularly to preach at both adult and youth gatherings. In all she does, Laurie’s life is marked by energy, passion and commitment to the cause of Christ. Her desire is to simply “love people and lead them to Jesus.” Laurie is an EBI grad and ordained minister with EF. She lives in Rochester with her husband James, where they manage to survive despite her lack of cooking skills.