After going to youth camp as a teen in the early 1970s, I chaperoned as a brand-new pastor in 1990. Recently, after a 27-year hiatus, I returned.
Why would a 58-year-old, aging Baby Boomer who still likes to preach in a coat and tie endure late nights and early wake-up calls with over 600 students one-fourth his age?
We have no youth pastor. I started in February at a new church that currently has no youth minister. I didn’t want students at our church to miss a shot at summer camp so I signed on!
I wanted to connect with our kids. Even if we had a student minister, I might have gone anyway because I wanted to connect with the kids. Research shows that kids are more apt to remain in church as adults if they knew their pastor personally when young.
There’s nothing like staying with seven guys in a space smaller than a bedroom to create a bonding opportunity. I even took a top bunk, which made middle of the night restroom breaks very interesting.
I desired to know more about Generation Z (a.k.a post-Millennials). Since my two Millennial children have married and moved on, I’ve lost touch with “the teen scene.” Also, I was spoiled at my last church with a full-time youth director who took care of everything with this age group.
Going to camp gave me a chance to reconnect to this important segment of society. I needed some fresh exposure to what they are saying, how they are acting, and who they are modeling.
I needed the experience myself. It was good to get away for some great music, wonderful preaching, and awesome fellowship. I can’t say I got my battery recharged (due to lack of sleep), but I certainly left with my mind challenged, spirit rekindled, and heart filled.
That said, I’m not sure I’ll go back next year, though I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. Not only were the campers themselves wonderful, those awesome, tireless young people who led the event were well trained and mature beyond their years.
The SBC (my tribe) has some top notch people spear-heading youth work in the State and National conventions. Better yet, we have an up-and-coming band of students that feed on authenticity, standing ready to share the love of Christ to the next generation.