5 Ways Camp Changes the World.

In one way or another, it seems that since birth I have been connected to summer camps.  My first birthday at Muskoka Woods with dad as the director.  I was a camper at Camp Mini-Yo-We, Ontario Pioneer Camp and Teen Ranch, and then went on to do LIT and then serving on summer staff as a cabin leader, LIT leader and part of the LIT teaching team.  After two years without being at camp, I had accepted in November the role as acting Executive Director for Camp Kwasind, which has brought me back into the camp community.

It seems that camp is in my blood.                                                                              But why in the world would I give my life to being part of the camp community?

1. Camp is a place where you make lasting friendships that shape your future.  It is no surprise that in a place where you are sharing living quarters, eating together, creating memories every day, getting to get into God’s word with others asking the same questions, and laughing a whole lot that you naturally create strong bonds of friendship.

2. Very few places in this world gives a young person the high level of responsibility you get when you serve at camp.  Taking on such significant roles at camp taught me leadership, responsibility, servanthood, budgeting, listening, decision-making and problem solving.  When I look around for some of the greatest ministry leaders in our country, so many of them have a camp background.  It is getting leadership opportunities early that gives you a head start on life opportunities.

3. I could never afford to have my own sail boat, get enough friends together to regularly play Ultimate Frisbee, have such adventures that we have me running through the woods looking for a flag, go down a huge zipline, explore the bottom of a lake, learn how to canoe, go on an overnight where I had to cook for myself, or have someone a little older than me that I can talk with and relate to, who really cares about me.  Camp is a time where you get to experience things you might never get to experience otherwise.

4. Life gets so busy that we miss out taking a time to reflect on how amazing life is.  Camp is a chance to unplug, to appreciate a world created that isn’t all made of concrete, to see stars at night, to leap into lake water, see wildlife and chase frogs.  Camps have great programs but they are a nice break from the routine of life to both appreciate what you have back home but also getting to appreciation for all creation in this amazing world.

5. Camp is a place that changes lives.  I have seen young people gain confidence when they accomplish something new, friendship formed with campers who felt alone, a smile appear on a hurting kids face when they are cheered for, a kid give a hug because someone older than them listened to their story, a teen choose to follow Jesus because they had a leader who lived out the love and grace of Jesus to him.

I give my life to camp because it might just be the best way to change the world!

Will your kids or you be able to experience camp this summer?

Matt Wilkinson www.nowandnotyet.ca

Junior High is the new Senior High?

One of the major trends that I see occurring across Canada and the United States in terms of youth ministry is the significance of the Junior High Ministry.   It seems as though many are waking up to the reality that a shift has been occurring in the development to of today’s teens. Many key youth pastor/youth ministers have started to the make the shift from their emphasis on Senior High with Junior High as a second thought, to the emphasis on Junior High with Senior High as a place of empowerment of students.

With tons of research to show that the shift in learning and the lifestyle of teens today, we see that how youth ministry use to respond to Senior High is now most effective with Junior Highs (ie. small groups/home churches, large group teaching, music, and reflection), how we responded to Junior Highs is best for grade 3-5 (games, large teaching,events, practical learning) , and how we responded to young adults is now for Senior Highs (ie. empowerment in learning, larger group interactive learning, practical living out the message, investment into social needs, small group emphasis etc.).  This downward shift would like;y be something that we as those who work with youth should look at more intently, especially in regards to a pastors leadership emphasis.

What would it look like in our youth ministries to begin a flip where our youth pastors see their key emphasis on investing into the Junior High ministry with allowing strong small group leaders and student leadership to give greater emphasis to Senior High Ministry.

Given that junior high is now the critical years, the reality is that if students are not fully connected or engaged in Junior High, then they will not connect with the Senior High ministry – so by putting all our effort into Senior High, when their schedules are already becoming so full, we could really miss out on both groups in the long run. Just as young adults who were not fully connected in senior high dropped off, this could become the future of our Senior High ministries unless we make the shift.

If we want to have a strong youth ministry it will be rooted in a fully functioning and engaging Junior High ministry.