(Are you scheduled to be a church camp speaker this year? Or do you run or assist in setting up a church camp? These helpful tips from Seth Troutt, a veteran camp speaker, are well worth paying attention to. — Karl Vaters)
I just did the math and I’ve been a part of 67 church camps (middle school, high school, college, etc).
Here are my five main recommendations:
1. Preach One Text The Whole Weekend
Be a good target shooter and leave your shotgun at home.
Unpack the passage bit-by-bit each session. For example, the last camp I did I preached Isaiah 6:1-9 and did six sermons. The fatal flaw I see in camp preaching is trying to do too much with each sermon. If I have six sessions at a camp, I’ll usually prepare the same amount of content that I’d prepare for one ordinary Sunday sermon, with a few additional illustrations.
Have a clear, central theme for the whole camp and stick to it. Let morning sessions be educational and evening sessions be confrontational. What makes camp special isn’t the preaching – don’t overestimate it.
Bringing in guest speakers is fine, but ordinarily it’s best to have someone from the church preach; this builds up the sense of connection the students will feel to the broader church, not just their peers.
2. Drive Everything Toward Small Groups
Like a good general, utilize the air war (preaching) and the ground war (small groups).
What makes camp special is the time available for immediate reflection, processing, and application. Recruit good small group leaders (we call ours mentors). Tell them what you are going to preach ahead of time. Cast vision for how they might build their small group time off of the sermon(s).
Pray with them. Listen to their God-stories. These leaders need to lead with curiosity and appropriate vulnerability.
3. Maximize Free Time
Just like the light pollution of the city makes it harder to see the stars, the busyness of our lives makes it harder to see God.
Jesus took his disciples up the mountain to pray for a reason. So, literally maximize how much free time you give them. Unbusy them for the week/weekend.
The older the people at the camp, the more free time they should have. In that space, move towards people: care for your leaders, play card games, and be a camper.
4. Minimize Your Song List
Like TV shows have theme songs, camp should have a theme song. If you want folks to sing, they have to know the songs.
Most camps sing too many songs at each session and don’t repeat songs enough through the week/weekend. A good strategy is to pick a theme song and play it at every session. If people know the song by the end, they’ll feel connected to the ministry, even if they didn’t at the start of camp.
A clutch move is making the big idea of the camp or of the sermon a line from the song; then they’ll certainly memorize the main preaching points.
5. Recruit Workers Who Want To Work
Like the vine needs a trellis, your camp needs gritty, task-oriented men and women.
Many think they have to be highly relational and spiritually mature to serve students. This is not true. A lot of work happens at camp, like setting up and tearing down environments, running (and cleaning up after) games, and doing lights-out checks at 1am.
Get some dependable men and women who just want to serve at camp and let them be the trellis to your vine. We call this group, “Crew Dads.”
Any best practices you’ve found for youth church camps? Feel free to comment on Seth’s feed (below).
This article originally appeared at @Seth_Troutt on X (Twitter). See more about the author, below.
(Photo by YWAM Orlando | Flickr)