Photo courtesy of     
American Missionary     
Fellowship camps     


Building Blocks
If you have to prepare
a study from scratch,
consider these building

• Pray that God will teach
you as you study.

• Read and reread the
passage, nothing your
observations. Note the
major sections, actions,
stressed ideas, repetitions,
contrasts or similarities,
and causes and effects.

• Paraphrase in your
own words the passage’s
meaning. Use a dictionary
to define difficult words.

• Apply truth to yourself.
Look for commands to obey, sins to forsake, promises to
claim, and examples to follow.

• Prepare the study,
considering the campers’
needs. Form questions
that will help kids discover
for themselves what you’ve
found. Ensure the questions
are clear and in good
sequence, have definite
answers, make campers
search the text, and move
the students through the
whole passage. Generally,
the passage should be studied
in “thought units,” not verse by
verse. Is there a comprehensive
question you could ask that
would tie the parts of the
passage together?


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Why and how to help your church's youth during a retreat

By Gladys Hunt

You're in the church foyer when you see a table decked with neon signs proclaiming, "Camp Signups Here." An enthusiastic youth leader wearing an equally bright T-shirt is attempting to entice teens to join the spring weekend. Then, you notice a smaller sign: "Volunteers Needed."

The poster hardly seems to present an opportunity. Camp is for kids, and the weekend is your time to relax. Besides, amidst all the high-energy activity, the teenagers would hardly notice you. Or would they?

Deciding to volunteer with your church's youth group for a few days or an entire week to help facilitate a retreat or camp experience can be more than worth your sacrifice of time. In addition to providing an atmosphere of fun and friendship, camp is an excellent place to urge kids toward spiritual growth through small-group Bible studies. This biblical encouragement during one event may change their entire perspective and the direction of their lives.

Everything Matters
When you arrive at camp, remember that everything you do as a volunteer will feed into your Bible study time. If you take more than your share of hotcakes at breakfast, make questionable jokes, or play someone else's position on the volleyball court, you have set up some negatives that will block out your study's bottom line.

Strive to be a godly example throughout the day. Ask God to help you use natural opportunities from creation and relationships to apply truth or discuss biblical principles, remembering that over-spiritualizing every happening will be counter-productive.

Everyone's Special
Also, get to know who the campers you'll be teaching are. Every individual has a unique background and set of experiences and abilities.

If your campers will be mostly regular churchgoers and youth group attendees, don't disregard their need for solid Bible study. Some may be merely "cultural Christians," knowing the language, but missing the inner reality and godly thought patterns. Challenge them to think through their faith in new dimensions.

Godly Goals
Before you start teaching, consider what you want to accomplish in this series of small group Bible studies. Avoid strings of Bible facts or out-of-context verse memory that lack application. Instead, aim to:

• Allow campers to interact with truth.
• Help them discover what the passage says, what it means, and how it applies to them.
• Encourage youth to read the Bible so they’ll do so effectively at home.
• Enable students to understand more of Who God is.
• Help them make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.

Handling Truth
In a Bible discussion, participants find the answers in the text, not basing them on opinion or imagination. When someone makes a contribution that's clearly not on track, never say, "That's wrong!" Instead, ask, "In which verse did you find that idea?" In that sense, every contribution is a good one because campers are learning how to discover truth, processing ideas, and revealing themselves.

Insisting that the Bible be handled carefully is crucial. Teach campers that Scripture is our authority, not what someone says about it, and build confidence in them that they can both read and understand the Bible.

Key Questions
Good discussion Bible studies ask three questions about the passage: What does it say (observe)? What does it mean (interpret)? What does it mean to me (apply)?

Of these questions, the most important is: What does it say? Don't assume you got all the facts with a quick reading. Use words in your questions such as who, what, when, where, list, find, or describe.

Then, ask interpretation questions that being with why, how, explain, or what does that mean. You might also combine observation and interpretation for more vibrant discussion, such as: "When did Nicodemus visit Jesus (fact), and why do you think he came then (interpretation)?"

If you do a good job with the first two, you should be clobbered with truth when you ask application questions. Avoid questions that encourage "yes" and "no" answers rather than discussion.

Super Studies
To make your study more interesting, brainstorm a creative opening, such as an introduction involving one of the day's events, or use a prop. Before the study, ask someone to be prepared to summarize what happened in the last study or to gather some helpful background material.

Try giving questions to groups of two or three kids to discuss and then report back to the larger group, asking students to put truths into their own words. Campers may also learn by role playing; have various students represent characters as they read the dialogue in the passage.

At the end of the study, ask several youth to summarize the key points. Encourage prayer and Scripture memory related to the passage.

Remember to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading. If the study becomes too long, or the group gets excited about something important, be flexible, but beware of tangents that distract from your main point.

Group Dynamics
During your study, don't be afraid of silence. Also be mindful of too-talkative kids, directing questions to other campers and gently encouraging shy students to participate.

While not avoiding all opportunities to teach, remember that the goal is to make the campers think and process truth. An on-target discussion will involve your asking questions, and participants responding, building on each other's contributions. Avoid setting up a too-structured environment, or having a free-for-all.

Finally, find one more member of your group: a person who will pray for you and the campers as you lead them in Bible study. Don't be surprised if the kids aren't the only ones who are changed. After all, camp is not just for kids.

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