Group Effort

Three ways to involve the church in getting youth to camp

by Mindi Godfrey

Surrounded by PlayStations, cell phones, iPods, Xboxes, laptops, and cable television, today’s students are on sensory overload. Add to that the schedules many young people juggle—with school, sports, clubs, social activities, and church functions—and God’s voice is easily drowned out.

Retreats and camps offer students much-needed time off to disengage from the noisy, hectic, day-to-day world and hear the Lord whisper His love. But getting students to camp can be challenging because of time and monetary limits.

If you start planning now, you can address both of these concerns and get more of your group to fall and spring retreats and to camp next summer. By organizing fund raisers that connect students to the larger church body in unique ways, you’ll show students that adults value camp experiences. Here are three fund raisers to try.

• Adopt-a-student: Create a mini biography of each person going to camp, including a photo, name, grade, school, interests, and prayer requests. Church attendees can sponsor a student by making a donation to the camp fund.

Sponsors and students may also want to exchange letters or e-mails during the camp or retreat. Adults can share camp memories (especially if they went to the same camp as a student) and their prayers or hopes for the young person. Students can share what’s going on at camp. After camp, invite everyone who participated to an appreciation event where several students share their experiences and show pictures from the session.

• It’s s’more fun night: Host a family camp fun event. Offer a “canteen” (a bake sale), play camp games, have a campfire sing-a-long, make s’mores, and do a craft. Raise money by charging admission, selling tickets to participate in the activities, and offering crafts for purchase. Students going to camp can staff the event.

• Holiday helpers: During the Christmas season, set aside a day, afternoon, or evening when church attendees can get some help from students who plan to go to camp. Offer child care so parents can shop without their kids.

Provide gift wrapping and have homemade fudge, sugar cookies by the dozen, and bags of party mix for sale. People can shop for goodies while they’re waiting for their packages or dropping off or picking up kids. To participate in this event, your youth group can care for children, bring gift-wrapping supplies and wrap gifts, or make food.

Camps and retreat centers offer students crucial time and space to meet intimately with God. Fund raisers that invite the church body into the process of helping students get to camp allow the church to invest in the lives of their youth. And students not only get the chance to create lifelong memories at camp, but they also build memories in the process of getting there.

Mindi has nearly two decades of youth ministry experience, including planning retreats and camps. She is the customer service and partnership coordinator for Youth Specialties in California.

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