The chapel was filled with big screens, flashing lights and lasers. The camp was geared to be a thrilling high-tech experience.
Then it all went dark.
“The lights went out, and it’s still remembered as one of the best camps ever,” says Justin Herman, junior high youth pastor at Mariners Church. The rest of the teaching was without microphones. The worship was acoustic. The chapel was without distraction.
To Herman’s surprise, the power outage was not a failure for the camp. Instead the incident created a memory now referred to as the “black-out chapel,” and it’s still talked about today.
For most events, technology is a necessity. In the corporate world, programs would be ruined if there were a short in the electrical circuit. At camp, lack of technology can lead to a different outcome, such as peeling away layers of distraction and making God the central focus.
“Camp gives us an undistracted ear with students to lay foundational thoughts,” Herman says. “Sometimes for students it’s just about processing what’s going on in their life because they don’t get enough breaks to step back and take account of it all.”
Sports practices, tests and hangouts with friends fill students’ time. Camp is the place where they can take a break and listen to what God might have to say to them.
Herman says, “It’s not that God speaks differently at camp, but we have a tendency to hear differently at camp.”
Packing a year’s worth of ministry into a week is one of the reasons Herman considers camp the most impactful thing his youth ministry does all year.
“Camp is the—without a doubt—the biggest potential life-changing event in the life of a student,” Herman says. That’s why he has a queue of reasons why church members should support camp.
He says if parents or other church members have experienced camp themselves, they are more likely to provide support. Herman asks his congregation, “Remember when you went to camp as a kid and what God did there? We want that to happen again for all of our students.”
Having adults buy into the vision of ministry—and not just the vision of camp—is a way to help them see the value of Christian camping. With the vision of the ministry founded in the Gospel, Herman says, “Every dollar is an investment in a kid hearing the word of God, maybe for the very first time.”
Opportunity, Herman says, is one of the top reasons adults should financially support camp. “This is an opportunity to get a student away to give them a chance to hear God’s voice.” Kids are trying to figure out who they are, how they fit in and what their identity is. Camp is the setting to do just that.
Perhaps an opportunity often overlooked by adults is the chance for students to rest without the expectation of homework. “You get the chance to give the kid rest,” Herman says.
“You’re going to get the opportunity to invest in a kid going deeper in their faith,” he says. “If you are someone who has a good handle on your identity in Christ, chances are it didn’t happen that way because you just fell into. Chances are it happened that way because you put work into.”
The duration of camp is valuable, but the results and changes that happen after camp are the trademarks of time well spent.
“Camp is the experience that is transformative, and post-camp is the springboard into those spiritual disciplines—into those actions.”
Photo courtesy of Thousand Pines