Camp Roundtable Pt 3
by Rob Brower • Editor, interlinc • Franklin, Tennessee
Camp is when we experience the results and rewards of months of daily ministry to teenagers. We work hard going into camp and expect that God will let us see the fruit of our labor: changed lives. interlinc editor, Rob Brower (RB), sits down with a panel of seasoned experts to discuss the importance of camp in today’s world and share some practical tips. Through their collective insights and experience, you’ll gain valuable knowledge on how to create a positive and impactful camp experience that will shape young hearts and minds for years to come.
TM: TobyMac – Christian Artist
DB: Dan Britton – Chief Field Officer, Fellowship of Christian Athletes
NF: Norman Flowers – Executive Director, Highland Lakes Camp
G&A: Geoff & Arianna Eckart – Never The Same
RD: Rick Dubose – Assistant General Superintendent, Assemblies of God
JH: Joe Hicks – FUGE Camps Manager, Lifeway Christian Resources
BW: Ben Warrell – Director, Gaspar River Catholic Youth Camp
A&B: Art & Beckie Melli – Pastoral Care – Europe, Youth for Christ Internatonal
JC: Jaroy Carpenter – Camp Director, Lakeview Camp
BJ: Bob Johns – Retired Youth Pastor (40+ years), Woodway First Baptist Church
RB: What tips do you have for preempting trouble or negative situations that might arise in a camping situation?
JC: Expectations are the platforms for miracles. I always try to plan ahead of how I will react when a negative situation arises. I expect a crisis to arrive from time to time. No week of camp is perfect. We are doing an event for imperfect people to reach an imperfect world. That in itself is a miracle. So I try to flip the script of when a negative situation arrives. What the enemy may do to harm, God can turn into good. Camp provides opportunities for students to take a negative situation and learn how to deal and cope with them in a spiritual way.
I also do what I call dream the scene. Meaning I think of every possible way something could go wrong and have a safety net plan in how to react and correct. I’ve often said if we don’t put on a show for students they will put on a show for us. I want to plan ahead and control the show and let God steal the stage anytime he wants.
BW: A few years ago, we started having each cabin group write down their expectations for each other. It gives young people a say in how they want their week at camp to go and it helps the counselors hold them accountable for their actions throughout the week. It’s been a great addition for us. We also work with our summer staff during staff training in acting out scenarios of possible situations and the best ways to respond to them. The summer staff also lay out expectations for each other as a whole and those they will be rooming with. Its prep work that helps them have a say in their camp experience as well.
JH: We have camp rules for the purpose of keeping camp safe and orderly. We also have a camper dismissal policy should it be needed. We expect the adult leaders and group leaders to supervise their students during unprogrammed times.
A&B: Train your staff, counselors and Christian leadership students on how to be effective and what you expect, what they should do in various situations. Collect their cell phones on the bus. We don’t believe in long periods of “free” time for middle schoolers. Keep them busy and keep a close watch on your flock!
BJ: Get lots of good counselors, nurture and train them well, thank them a lot, and empower them to be ministers to your kids. When it comes to the students, never let them see you sweat.
Once, our security guy told me the names of three guys he caught out after hours. I met with our high school group the next morning, informed them that I had the names of kids who had sneaked out the night before.
I then announced that I was going to count to three and if these kids didn’t stand up, I was sending them home. I counted to three and 24 kids stood up. The picture I took of the “troublemakers” still makes me laugh.
G&A: Set rules, boundaries, and consequences and then clearly communicate before hand to parents, students and youth leaders. When someone breaks a rule and needs to be dismissed from camp, it is clear that this was the student’s choice not ours.
NF: Have plenty of Godly adults and plan well.
RB: What kind of specialty camps have you created? (Discipleship, Guys-Only, Father/Daughter Coronation, Outreach, Adventure Camp, etc.)
JC: We have targeted camps and events for various groups. We host foster care camps, LOL Lakeview Outdoor Education events for schools, Game Day Challenge events where we play games and do character education talks between game sets. I also take this concept to public schools and do the event on school’s football field. We do a Heaven’s Kitchen camp teaching camp and church cooks various creative dishes. Work & Perk camp where groups can do a work project at our camp facilities and stay for free but pay for meals. Leadership Venture camps where we lead team building activities for student leadership groups, church staffs, Chamber of Commerce personnel, school administrators, etc., I lead beach camps. I also lead Camp U which promotes Southwestern Assemblies of God University.
There is no limit on the creativity of camp concepts. There’s not a camp I don’t like or will not lead within spiritual reason.
BW: We have done Vocations Camp, All-Girls Camp, Theology of the Body Camp but most of our campers desire a traditional week of camp.
We are transitioning those week-long experiences into weekend retreats that we will offer several times throughout the year.
NF: Inter City and Leadership Camps.
A&B: Our favorites that we’ve created that we still have former students talking about are our cycling trips, missions trips, service trips to the inner city, back-packing trips, and of course outreach/service trips in Europe to former Eastern Block nations, huge music festival camps, and our residential beach camps that we started in Italy.
DB: We offer six types of camps: Sports Camp, Leadership Camp, Coaches Camp, Power/Youth Sports Camp (8-12 year olds), Team Camp, and Partnership Camp.
Youth Leaders Only, in its 38th year, helps youthworkers in thousands of churches be aware of the music their students are listening to, use all forms of music in their ministries, and equip their students to make wise choices about the music & media they have in their earbuds 9 hours every day. A membership costs less than the price of a pizza each month! The theme of the current YLO is “Camp: Making A Lifelong Difference In Just One Week.” Click here to get it!
RB: Will the student revival/awakening of 2023 impact yourplans for summer camp? If so, how?
BW: YES! The Holy Spirit can often be the forgotten third of the Trilogy. The same Holy Spirit that came upon the apostles is the same Holy Spirit that is available to us today! The Holy Spirit was moving on campus at Asbury and lives were touched, healed, and changed by that power. This summer, we will talk about that encounter and provide the campers with opportunities to connect to that power! Through prayer, healing prayer, devotion, praise and worship, and reminding them that they are called to follow Christ just like the apostles.
BJ: I pray it impacts our entire nation. We need another Jesus Revolution. By the way, go see that movie if you haven’t yet. It really happened!
NF: My prayer is that the expectation for God to pour out His spirit will continue for students and adults. That this summer will be a catalyst of more to come.
A&B: Praying for the camp that we live at that God will stir in the hearts of the 500 summer staff before the 10 weeks of students even arrive, and that it will be contagious! We are feeling the urgency to see God work in 2023!
JH: We always have a desire for the Holy Spirit to move each and every summer. Hopefully, with all that is happening around us, students’ hearts will be more open than ever for this to happen at FUGE this year.
G&A: We pray it does! We pray the Holy Spirit would fall on us and have His way in every area of camp. We are looking into some elements that would open the door for extended times of revival and awakening. We have been praying into the fact that our camps are held on college campuses where God has been moving.
We’re praying that the chapel auditoriums that we will be in will continue to have outpourings of the Holy Spirit so that when we walk into them this summer, we’ll still feel His presence the moment we step into them.
I love seeing God do so much at Asbury. He can do whatever He wants to do wherever He wants to do it, but there is something significant about one certain place that has had as many prayers for revival that Asbury has had. Last month was evidence of that.