My role at the youth camp that happens each summer has changed a lot since I first got involved as a sixth grader in 1989. Camp itself has also changed a lot through the years. I couldn’t say it has become better or worse, but in some ways you could make a case for both sides. Maybe it is a case of ‘the good old days’ syndrome on my part, but I can appreciate simplifying things down to the essential parts at camp so that distractions are minimized. I do not plan on describing each year one by one and the subtle differences that took place between them. I will describe past and present instead.
The past: less than 80 teens gathered at Lassen pines in open air tents shaped like covered wagons each wagon with a solo counselor and spent the majority of time outdoors eating at picnic tables, sitting on wooden bleachers near a bonfire each night and playing games in a field nearby or at night. The speaker used an overhead projector to illustrate his points and to captivate his audience.
The present: over 200 teens gather at Sky Mountain Christian Camp and stay in cabins with heaters and windows and private showers and indoor plumbing- and electricity where they can plug in their chargers etc. They have 1-2 counselors and spend about 1/2 of their time indoors in a gym or cabin and cafeteria and 1/2 outside playing competitive games and walking to and from events. There is a full band and concert setup stage and lighting projector screens and fog machine in a carpeted multi-use room and media is managed with professional state of the art equipment.
I really enjoyed the low tech approach to the camp experience, and appreciated how different it was from home life as a teen. Now that technology is integral to so many parts of my life, in some ways it is good to learn about God in that context. The only consistent concern I have is how effective people can be engaged the farther they are from the leaders of the music. How much can you connect with a person leading worship music when 199 others are there to catch in your peripheral vision? At what point does worship leading become a christian rock concert? I believe that there is a place and a reason for all of these things to exist, but have been thinking about how youth ministry may be missing the tougher to implement parts of ministry such as direct mentoring. Not just to live holy lives and strive for purity and seek God through time alone reading and praying, but to be a big brother or sister to teens. To be available is the most valueable resource to the average teen, (if an average teen ever existed). I write this because this is what I see lacking to a degree in my own ministry, the personal time spent with individuals that communicates, ‘I really like you’ and not just , ‘i am doing my job’. I like the teens I work with, and sometimes think about how much more effectively I could teach certain things with just a little more time with each one.
I also have a role as a father. I do believe that this role is above my role as a youth leader, because what a hypocrite would I be to put aside my own children and wife to pursue a role of spiritual mentor? A big one. Thankfully my wife is also very on board with youth ministry and we are likeminded in a desire to see these teens thrive in life, so here is not much disagreement on our purposes. I feel we are more and more like one person as time passes in some ways. At some point, I have to acknowledge that I can’t be around forever to lead a youth group, so I am thinking about how to prepare teens and others to not be dependent on Karyn and myself for what to do next. I want to encourage others to own the purposes they have been given and come up with ideas of their own to try out to complete those missions and goals unguided by me, but by the wisdom and discernment given to them by God. I also hope to have all of the other parts of the church working smoothly with each other with the youth group, and not as such seperate entities that seldom interface.
Right now I want to focus on having scheduled moments to connect with each of my children (and my wife) as individuals, and keep looking for more people I can trust to help with the teens and help keep me accountable for the goals I have set for myself to stay living on purpose and be the best I can be with God’s help.
I don’t feel effective at times, so I would appreciate your prayers of support, if you would put in a word for me next time you talk with our Father.
I am encouraged by recent sermons delivered to my iPhone from Arcade Wesleyan Church in Sacramento, and am really excited about what they are doing, listening attentively. Also a new podcast about living called “The Existence Project” has been fun to hear from.
I hope nobody thinks I have a problem with Christian Rock Concerts, or people making a living in ministry, but I was just speaking from my own memory of my earlier teenage perspective on things. It informs the way I approach things from time to time.