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How to Make Youth Camp Count

5 simple ways to ensure summer camp is a life-changing experience for teens
Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

I’ll never forget going to camp for the first time. Although I was only 11 years old, I sweet-talked the youth leaders of our church into letting me attend the junior high summer camp. We took an unairconditioned school bus from Denver, Colorado, to Hollywood, Florida, in August. That camp experience changed my life and forged the basis for the ministry I lead today: Dare 2 Share.

That camp did five simple things I’ve rarely seen replicated at other camps. I’m going to share these five things in the form of five action steps you can take to make camp exponentially more influential for your teens this summer.

1. Create a Gospel-inviting and a Gospel Advancing atmosphere.

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes….

Romans 1:16

A Gospel-inviting atmosphere assumes that many of the teenagers attending camp are not yet believers. It means making sure your camp speaker gives the Gospel clearly every night and that there are consistent opportunities for teenagers to respond to the Gospel publicly. This also means that adult leaders are equipped beforehand to navigate Gospel conversations with the teenagers in their cabins. To equip your leaders to share the Gospel effectively, have them watch this five-minute video on how to clearly and concisely share the G.O.S.P.E.L.

A Gospel Advancing atmosphere means that, from square one at camp, Christian teenagers are challenged to share their faith. This missionizes the camp experience, making it less about the what’s-in-it-for-me consumeristic mindset so prevalent today and more about how God can use teenagers to make disciples.

2. Pray! Pray! Pray!

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Luke 5:16

You probably wouldn’t want Jesus as a camp speaker, because you’d never be able to find Him when it was His time to speak. He’d be out roaming around in the nearby fields or hills, praying for the teenagers, praying for their souls, praying for impact!

But we must follow His model if we desire to make a deep and lasting impact on teenagers at camp. We must PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

PRAY leading up to camp! Pray that God prepares the hearts of both believers and unbelievers. Pray that every teen who should attend will attend.

PRAY all during camp! Meet together as a team early in the day to pray for God to make a maximum impact—that souls will be saved and lives will be changed!

PRAY after camp! Pray that the decisions made would be steeled and sealed, that the seeds sown would produce 30-, 60-, and 100-fold harvests!

And, in addition to you and your adult leaders praying, incorporate prayer into your camp meetings. Have teenagers pray. Get them praying for each other and for their unreached friends back home to come to Christ.

3. Equip your teenagers to share the Gospel, and give them opportunities to do it that week!

So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13

I’ll never forget my camp experience with 2,000 other teenagers in Florida that summer 40 years ago. We were equipped to share the Gospel in the morning sessions and then unleashed to the beach in the afternoon. Because Florida Bible College Camp was held at the old Hollywood Beach Hotel, right on the beach, anyone could walk through our beachfront on the boardwalk. This meant that 2,000 fully equipped teenagers were given an opportunity every afternoon to share the Gospel while we hung out on the beach.

We were equipped to evangelize in the morning, took opportunities to share Jesus in the afternoon, and shared testimonies about those experiences at night. Again, all this formed the basis for what I do today at Dare 2 Share. We incorporate all these elements at our weeklong summer event for teens called Lead THE Cause. I encourage you to bring your teens sometime! But, even if you don’t attend our event, you can incorporate some of these same elements into yours and make your camp that more effective.

Teenagers can share the Gospel from camp. They can send texts to friends that ask questions like: How can I pray for you? or Would you mind if I shared with you some of the things that have changed my life here at camp this week? You can have them download Dare 2 Share’s free and fabulous Life in 6 Words app and send a QuickStarter social media Gospel-conversation prompt.

However you do it, do it. It’s a simple way to turn a typical camp experience into a camp with a cause—the cause of Christ!

4. Go for the all-in decision, but answer the question: “all in for what?”

Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:18-20

Often we challenge teenagers to go all in to serve Jesus, but they have no idea what that actually means. Using Matthew 28:18-20 as our guide, let’s see what all in meant to Jesus and His disciples.

All in for Jesus as their KING: Jesus said: “All authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to me.” When a teenager commits, as a believer, to go all in for Christ, he or she is committing to follow His kingship in every area of their lives. This means forsaking areas that dishonor Him and embracing habits that honor Him. This means following the King’s decrees as articulated in Scripture. This means that He is their new numero uno!

All in for making disciples as their CAUSE: “Therefore go and make disciples....” When teens commit at camp to follow Jesus as their King, they’re committing to follow their King’s prime directive of advancing the Gospel to everyone they can!

All in for a group of like-minded friends to be their CREW: Jesus spoke to a group of similarly-aged disciples and sent them out as a crew. He reminded them that, even after He was physically gone, He would be with them “always, to the very end of the age.” It’s important that we call teenagers to get the kinds of friends who will serve their King and advance His Cause alongside them when they get back home.

5. Share the Gospel along the way as you come back home from camp.

Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went.

Acts 8:4

After we left Florida Bible College Camp, we had an almost two-day trip in front of us. At every rest stop, gas station, and restaurant along the way, we shared the Gospel and told stories about it when we piled back onto the bus.

Whether your drive is two days or two hours, you should make opportunities on the way back from camp to share the Gospel. Again, using the Life in 6 Words app, these conversations can happen digitally, but challenge teens to share Jesus at those stops along the way as well.

The power of this is that, as teenagers come back to reality, they begin incorporating everything they learned at camp into real-life Gospel conversations. It moves camp from theoretical to practical, and it forces teens to put some skin in the game after being challenged all week.

Apply these five steps to your summer camp and watch what God will do! Take your camp experience to the next level and consider taking your teens to Lead THE Cause next summer. There’s nothing like it for activating your students for the Cause of Christ: sharing the Good News near and far!

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