By Rev. Dr. Ka'thy Gore Chappell
I am less than 24-hours out from a week at Youth Camp, specifically, 2021 UniDiversity; however, I could be writing about any one of the countless church or denominational Youth Camps that are designed and programmed throughout the world annually. Of course, as ministers, it is always imperative that we provide our youth, leaders and churches with the best opportunity possible to participate and be included in a Youth Camp that is theologically sound, physically safe, emotionally healthy and spiritually challenging.
Students participate in worship at UniDiversity Camp at Maryville College (TN)As I reflect on the Youth Camp I have just experienced and the Youth Camps that I have experienced throughout my life as participant and leader, I can state emphatically that I am a life that has been changed by these positive experiences of learning and growth. Specifically, I think of the Church Youth Camps sponsored annually by my home church during “Spring Break” or Youth Camps offered in the summer months and designed by individual churches or denominational groups like Centrifuge of the 1980’s, CASWELL (NC Baptist Assembly) of the 1990’s and into the 2000’s, Passport, Inc. of the 1990’s to present and regional Youth Camps like UniDiversity. Thankfully, I have had the opportunity to experience Youth Camp as a planner, leader and/or director of some of these experiences and as a participant in all of these experiences. Youth Camp has the potential to change the lives of all involved! Youth Camp has certainly enriched my life and contributed to God’s call on my life to ministry.
So, how exactly does one week of Youth Camp change a life? Through experience, reflection, observation and conversation, I can testify to the excitement, anxiety, joy and stress that accompany the preparation, anticipation and living out of a week of Youth Camp. Youth and leaders alike are excited to participate and yet, a little anxious about being accepted and uncertain as to the success of the experience. I have witnessed the beauty of a busy schedule that feeds the soul, challenges the spirit, and involves the body, heart and mind of both campers and leaders. People experience a sense of accomplishment based on simply showing up for events, “playing” whether you are good at a sport or not, presenting an openness to learn in Bible study, worship, and music and demonstrating a creative and courageous spirit through service and generosity. Perfection is not required.
As communicated, 2021 Youth Camp was not my first experience with UniDiversity and I already have the date for the 2022 Camp on my calendar. But this blog is not just about one week of camp. It is all the weeks of Youth Camp and all the ministers, directors, leaders, chaperones and peers that have contributed to making me the person and minister that I am. This blog is about proclaimers who challenge worshippers to love EXTRA, youth ministers who are “on” 24/7 during Youth Camp, chaperones who give personal vacation time to participate, and young people who are boldly open to new relationships.
As I mentioned in my opening statement, I write this blog fresh off of a week at 2021 UniDiversity Youth Camp and I am acutely aware of the contribution the week made to my life, both personally, professionally and spiritually. To “pay it forward,” Baptist Women in Ministry of North Carolina participates in experiences like UniDiversity Youth Camp and relationship development with college and divinity students at Passport Camps in order to educate a younger generation to God’s call to women in ministry and the identity of an organizational advocate like BWIM NC.
Today, please reflect on your experience with Youth Camp! How might your experience contribute to forward movement of future Youth Camps at your church, community or denomination? How might your positive attitude toward leading, chaperoning and financing Youth Camps contribute to the building of the Kingdom of God? Amen.
Youth Camp Resources:
UniDiversity: Described as “A Unique Christian Youth Camp Experience,” UniDiversity is “a week-long Christian summer camp for teenagers that is planned and led by church ministers and adult volunteers who have a passion for connecting teens with Christ and with each other.” www.unidiversity.org Located on the campus of Maryville College in Tennessee, the 2021 Camp theme, “Among Us,” was based on the scripture, John 1:14 a, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
Passport Camp: Described as a ministry “With Christ as foundation, Passport empowers students to have fresh encounters with God, embrace community, and extend grace to the world. Passport Camp models lessons like service in the name of Christ, creation care and respect for neighbors.” The 2021 Camp theme, “Story,” was based on the scripture, Hebrews 12:2a, “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who is the author of our faith and the one who brings it to its goal.” www.passportcamps.org/about Passport, Inc. is 501(c) (3) located in Birmingham, Alabama.
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