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.