Last year our older students were ready for a change of venue for their summer camp. In the fall of 2015 I started thinking about what to do for a camp experience for our older students. I kept in mind that most of them have summer jobs so I decided a shorter camp of only 4 nights and 5 days. I also wanted to challenge them to go deeper, so the camp was going to focus more on discipleship.
I started searching the web for camps to rent. Found nothing that jumped out at me. I then went back to a place I always love and that's the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley. I found a retreat cabin there that was built specifically for church groups. Great set up in the cabin, fire pit outside, swimming holes in nearby creeks and rivers. We were going to float down the Shenandoah in inner tubes. On paper and out loud it sounded like a fun adventurous week for our students.
Then came the sign up. Three students!! Three students?! What was up with that? I had already booked the airline flight for my friend, Steve Turrentine, to come and teach on prayer during the week. I had already created the morning prayer journal/devotional for our campers to use. We had our adults and cooks all lined up. Deposit paid on the cabin.
What a huge let down it was for me. I wondered to myself what in the world is going on? After speaking with others in youth ministry I'm finding out this isn't just our group. Youth ministry is changing. Part of what some of us are seeing is students are not signing up for the events, the camps, etc. like they used to. That's a blog subject for another time.
So I spent a good day or two just thinking about what to do. Night Camp was born in that process of trying to figure out what was going on. I decided that if they weren't willing to go experience a fantastic trip with loads of adventure and fun maybe they want to just stay home.
Here is what Night Camp looked like last week, July 25-28:
7 to 8:15 - Campers arrived; ate supper; played games on the front lawn with music thumpin
8:20 to 8:30 - We moved up to The Loft for a fun interactive game with prizes
8:30 to 9:30 - We had worship with our church band and our student band; Steve taught on prayer
9:30 to 10 - Late night snack and games on the front lawn
10:00 camper went home; slept in their own beds; went to work during the day and then showed back up at night and we did it all over again.
Here is what I saw:
> I threw the invite to Night Camp out to other local churches, another youth group joined us and a few students from a couple of other churches attended.
> Student were engaged. They loved the fellowship time and meals. They were active in worship.
> Students prayed out loud in the worship time during times of prayer. Amazing to listen to them pray my heart was encouraged.
> Missing students returned.
> Students brought friends.
> The number of campers grew each night.
> Adults and students got involved using their gifts to serve.
Was there room for improvement? Of course, always is. But with the list of results I just shared I realized that what I would consider a ministry flop or failure birthed a ministry success. Night Camp was a great success!
So is there a future for Night Camp? I'm a dreamer and so I'm dreaming big for next year's Night Camp. Stay tuned for details!
Night Camp '16 - Night 4 from Nags Head Church on Vimeo.