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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.