Thanks to all that are helping me out with this camp issue. Here's the basic data for the past week. The week went much better than last year. The speaker, music, everything just seemed to work better. One reason could be the lack of students. This year was an incredibly low year in numbers. I know people have to make budget through tuition, but I like the smaller camps. Packed camps are for the birds. Finally, student's lives were changed and for this I thank God.
Now, here's my critique/response to the previous comments:
1. (Good idea) THERE'S NO BANQUET HERE!!! Thank God they got rid of the banquet. This idea never made sense to me. They preach all week about remaining pure and not to lust and then place a dinner entirely centered around finding someone of the opposite sex as a focal point of the week. I guess you're not supposed to lust while eating.
2. (Good idea) They got rid of the baptismal service. The students were told to go back to their home churches and ask their pastor to do the baptism in the presence of friends and church family. What a concept!
3. (Bad idea) Pete is right about providing a crisis point for youth. I also agree that camp USED to do that. Students have changed. My students were offended by what they called "scare tactics" to get them to come to the altar. Perhaps we are trying a little to hard to create the crisis moments in the services. Students can see through the facades. Perhaps we could place them in a different environment altogether to create a space for the crisis moments. Students expect these moments at camp. In a sense we are commercializing them by perpetuating the traditional camp cycle (saved night, sanctified night, Holy Spirit night, go change your world night). In essence our students are paying $100 for a spiritual guarantee. I know that this is oversimplifying the issue, but it does go through my head.
4. (Bad idea) Cheesy games must go. Here's a revolutionary idea: let the students go take a nap in the afternoon. This is the most requested activity at camps nationally. (data supporting this conclusion was not available at time of publication) The camp that I would like to take our students to is down in Daytona. The students are involved in a large scale service in the morning and evening with major bands and such, and then are pretty much free during the day to be on the beach, go shopping, etc. But this is all done as a youth group.
5. (Good idea) Use camps to build youth groups!!! Each year at camp our guys in the youth group are split up from the girls in the youth group for most of the day. I like the camps that allow the youth groups to be together during the day. The friendship aspect of camp is great. However, those friends leave when camp is over. We need to spend more time building communities of faith that are stronger when they get back home.
6. (Good idea) Be real!!! This ties in to #3. There are crisis experiences all around us. We have to teach our students to acknowledge them as such and understand that the ground upon which they walk, the rooms in which they sit, etc. are all holy spaces. Let's teach students to find these holy spaces and discern the voice of God wherever they are. Yes, we must even teach them to discern the presence of God while sitting in the theater watching Harry Potter! (I am sorry to say that this was an issue at camp this year) Students no longer accept the world of the "Holy bubble" nor should we expect them to. I guess my critique here is more of a theological critique but still, we need to look at things such as this.
Final point. I am all for experiences etc. that will impact the lives of students. After all, that's my purpose in life, to bring students into an understanding of and a life in the presence of God. I guess that's why I take the camp issue so personally. In many cases, we as youth ministers have limited opportunities to take students out of their normal surroundings and place them in a sitting that is conducive to them hearing from God. When someone messes up one of these chances, I take it personally. These are real lives that we are playing with here, and we cannot allow traditions or politics get in the way of creating a spiritual experience for them.