It’s here!!!! Camp season is upon us, which means the registrations, reservations, communications, and eager anticipation are in full swing. As we all know, camp is such a unique and precious time for both the students and the leaders. Instead of seeing our students for the normal 3 hours a week, we get to see them for 5 days straight! The discipleship opportunities and memorable moments will certainly be plentiful.

But what about the days leading up to camp? I don’t mean the purchasing of obnoxious material for your team color or the careful organization of the thousand and one waivers. I mean, how are we spiritually preparing ourselves, our leaders, and our students for camp?

Here are five simple yet effective ways to help direct your youth group’s focus to the meaning and mission of camp:

#1 – Choose a day for you and your leaders to fast and pray

At the camp we attend every year, our awesome director encourages each church to pick a day to pray and fast for camp. Instead of just following our normal routine, we are to intentionally stop throughout the day and pray for the many spiritual and administrative aspects of camp. This does not need to be a formal activity, but rather a day to unify with your leaders as you each pray for God to work during the camp week.

#2 – Host a camp prayer service

So often, we tend to think of camp as the venue for getting right with the Lord. Students spend the whole week repenting of sin and recommitting to following the Lord. But what if students went in to camp with a heart already dedicated to God and to serving Him? Think of the amazing ways God will work with hearts that are already softened. Truly take a minute to picture it: students surrendering to the ministry or leading their friends to the Lord or starting their own peer-led Bible studies!

To help with preparing the students’ and leaders’ hearts, our youth group will be having a Camp Prayer Service the weekend before camp. During the short time together, students will be given the opportunity to pray alone, to pray together, to pray for the lost, to pray for the camp operations, to pray for open hearts, and to just praise God! Certainly, not all students will show up and certainly, not all students will come to camp with open hearts. But a camp prayer service provides a unique opportunity to unite students with their peers as they seek God’s blessing for the camp week.

#3 – Provide opportunities for students to lead during camp

Discipleship opportunities during camp are EVERYWHERE. Start thinking, planning, and talking with your student leaders about possible opportunities. Students could lead a camp devotional at night, partner with a younger student during the devotional/prayer time, lead a group game, be in charge of managing the team spirit supplies, or even give their camp testimony at church.

Don’t try to do it all yourself. Instead, allow your students to get out of their comfort zone and be directly involved in the discipleship process. The more they are able to lead, the more they will take root and be fully invested.

#4 – Encourage students to create camp goals

I encourage you to carve out some time in one of your Sunday School classes or youth group meetings to have the students intentionally think and write out their goals for camp. For our students, I have them write down three things they wish to accomplish or want to focus on during camp. You can also have categories, such as: 1 fun goal, 1 social goal, 1 spiritual goal. Because camp is so busy and fast-paced, students can very easily just go through the motions and focus on whatever is right in front of them. But these written down goals force teens to think intentionally and provide accountability opportunities between you and students throughout the week.

#5 – Meet with your leadership team

Chances are if your leaders are willing to spend 5 whole days in the heat with teenagers, then they are probably pretty amazing people who care about the spiritual condition of your students. But it is absolutely pivotal that you meet and pray with your leadership team beforehand. Talk about the layout of the week and the delegation of responsibilities. Discuss the spiritual next steps for students and how you can help provide opportunities for conversation and growth. It may even be prudent to assign each leader a specific group of students to focus on investing and pouring into. The more direction and leadership you give, the more you’ll see your leaders grow and impact others.

Now, camp is awesome and incredibly beneficial in the discipleship process, but it is not the end goal! The camp environment lends itself to high emotions and close relationships. But camp is merely a tool for evangelism and discipleship to take place. Therefore, we must not throw all our eggs into the camp basket, hoping it will solve every spiritual, emotional, and social problem in our youth group. Instead, we must focus on making the most of the time we’ve been given. That means starting now to spiritually prepare through prayer and discipling, that means going through the camp week intentionally and humbly, and that means having a plan in place to continue the discipleship process after camp for those who were saved, surrendered to ministry, or just simply seek to grow in their relationship with Christ.

Camp is not our goal nor our Savior. Christ is, and He must be our focus before the camp week, during the camp week, and after the camp week. So, youth pastor or leader, what should we do now? Might I suggest James 4:8. May we check our hearts, draw near to God, and watch Him work!

James 4:8 – Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.