It seems like every church has them. They’re the highlight of the youth ministry year.
There’s the signup. Then the fundraising. Then there’s more fundraising. Bags are packed. Snacks are bought. Batteries are charged. Load the vans; here we go.
If you were one of those kids who was raised in a church with a youth ministry, you remember camp, retreat, or that conference as some of the best memories of your teen years. You stayed up late, spent all your parent’s money, and if you were lucky, you got a girl’s phone number.
Looking back, is it all worth it – the money, the hassle, the fundraising (shudder), and the corralling?
Here’s five reasons camps, retreats, and special events are vital to youth ministry:
- Students need a break. Like everyone else, students need something fresh every now and again. Life is tough, even for students, and having something to look forward to keeps us focused when the going gets tough. For some, youth events are the only break students get from bad home lives. On trips, they get to see adults who love Christ and who love them.
- Students get a little culture. Many students haven’t had much contact with people outside their own town. Some of you think this is crazy. Most of you know exactly what I am talking about. Studies show that an increasing number of families don’t go on vacation – their hometown is all they see! Getting to see other places and participate in unique events (especially if they are from a small town) is quite eye-opening to many students.
- Students learn that God is bigger than their church. I’m a believer in the local church, but God has many local churches. When dozens of local church youth groups come together, the students know that they are not alone. God is working everywhere. In your state and on the other side of the country. Seeing churches worship together is a good thing for students.
- Students hear from God in a new way. Yes, your students love their youth pastor. He’s the greatest. But, they hear from him all the time. Week in, week out. They’ve heard all his stories and can predict what he will say next. When students get to hear from another pastor, they hear from God in a new way – maybe in a way they have never heard before.
- Students seem to respond to God more powerfully. I’m not sure what it is, but God seems to do mighty things in the lives of students when they’re away at an event. Maybe it’s new surroundings. Maybe there’s less distractions. Maybe we’ve prayed more. Maybe it’s because they have had one-too-many Red Bulls. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that God has a pattern of doing big things when we get away for the purpose of growing closer to Him (Moses on Mt Sinai, Jesus and the Transfiguration, Paul in Arabia, etc.).
Am I saying God only works when we have packed out the fifteen passenger van? No.
Am I saying that youth ministries exist solely to go off to camp during the hottest week of the year? No.
What I am saying is that all the hassle is worth it.