The Power of the Christian Camp Staff

Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” I Corinthians 11.1

These words from the Apostle Paul set the challenge for Christian Camp staff each summer. They will be the real living gospel to campers each week.

Wally, Pete, Lyle and Jerry; these were my camp counselors. Forty years later I remember them and the impact they made on my life. The power of camp is in the personal touch that comes from staff connecting with campers and living the gospel message. When Christ ask the disciples to “touch me and know that I am real” (Luke 24:39), He was giving to them a personal reminder that His ministry, His sacrifice, and His message were all real and intimately personal.

And so it is for the camp staff to say boldly to campers, watch me and see that I am real; a living testimony of Christ living in my changed life. See the love of Christ at work in my actions and do as I do. The power of camp rests in the hands of godly young men and women who take the challenge of being imitators of Christ. It’s long lasting ministry of amazing impact with eternity consequence. Wally, Pete, Lyle and Jerry are living proof enough for me.

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O Wow! The Testimony of God’s Creation

Remember now your creator in the days of your youth. Ecclesiastes 12:1

When teaching camp counselors to take a nature hike, no matter what their experience knowledge was outdoors, I told them they only need to know the words, “O WOW”! The key  getting kids plugged in outdoors is not teaching a lot of facts (those can come latter) but to create a desire in them to explore with youthful curiosity the wonder of God’s creation. All you need to know is O WOW! If they found it, its cool. If they discover something new, its exciting. If they begin to randomly explore their newly found outdoor world then I’m really happy.

The beauty of creation, its intelligent design, intricate patterns and interwoven life cycles all point to the creator. The testimony of creation is God’s testimony found in the wisdom and handiwork and His sustaining power of the natural world. God’s power seen and handled by campers fosters an intimate link between what He created and those who will take the time to marvel at it.

A camp’s outdoor environment is a powerful connection to reach campers. Kids do not have the freedom to explore anymore. So at camp they enjoy the freedom of unstructured exploring time to engage the  natural world. Camp is a time to be away from normal routines at home. Exploring cool outdoor places is time away from the normal camp routine. These times become great relational connections. They become part of the shared experiences of camp. They offer a different pace. It’s during these times that kids have time to think, process and make connections between the messages they are receiving and life.

Is it any wonder that Bible time leaders were trained in the away places of the wilderness? Jacob, Abraham, David, Elijah, Paul, were prepared with outdoor experiences. Even Christ went to the wilderness. Much of the Psalms gives praise to the creator and Christ used outdoor spaces and illustrations to spread His message.

When campers come to camp their senses come alive. All the wonder and new experiences opens the mind to receive and understand the gospel message presented during the week of Christian Camp. Just as Christ used the senses to engage the disciples after his resurrection, we can too with the power of the testimony of His creation.

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The Power of Simple Camp Ministry

Camp in its outdoor setting away from daily chaos is meant to be a simple ministry. The example from the early church gives us a simple pattern for ministry. Camp as a ministry supports local churches and should reflect good ministry practice, and simple ministry reflects Christian camping at its best.

Acts 2:42 gives us a simple ministry template for the church and camp.  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

First is the attention given to Bible study and doctrine. Doctrine brought to life with every day application should never be boring. Especially at camp where experiential application applies so easily.

Second is the power of sharing or fellowship. Giving testimony of God at work before and during camp bonds the Word of God to the heart.

Remembering Christ life and teaching the Gospel message in camp makes for spiritually healthy breaking of bread. Given the time spent at camp for this message to root, the example of Christ can take hold of a campers life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer and its work at camp. The consistent pattern and results of prayer at camp sets a wonderful example to take home. The Spirit of God grows and mature those who give attention to meeting regularly Him.

In the context of this verse the Holy Spirit is abiding and working in the church and in its believers. It is in fact the Spirit of God at work in simplicity and in the absence of complexity that should grab our attention. Complexity takes us away from the very ministry tools above that  God is asking us to employ. Complexity overwhelms needed time for Bible study, relational sharing and prayer focus that God intends His servants to use, work through and bring glory to His name.

To paraphrase J.C Macaulay, a Moody Bible Institute professor from another generation, “When we lack the fulness of the Spirit we turn to substitutes like religious entertainment and gimmicks to hold and attract an audience…so that we can compete with the world.”

What will you do to keep program complexity in check and simple ministry central in your Christian camp ministry this summer? Feel free to share.

Life in the Spirit, J.C. Macaulay, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI, 1955

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Bringing God’s Word to Life

Ministry it seems to me is bringing God’s word to life. A play on words to some extent; we bring the Words of God to the hearing of each individual life with the ultimate intent of seeing those Words come to life in each of them. This transforming life change comes from God working through His spirit. He brings the understanding that Jesus is the giver of eternal life as a sacrificial redeemer for sin. Not only a savior, but a spiritual guide for a life lived acceptably before God.

Camp ministry done well powerfully brings God’s Words to life. In a 24 hour living experience, camp can let the Word become a part of living and make it come to life. I John 1:1-3 shows to us that we are share that which we have heard, seen, looked upon and our hands have handled regarding The Word of life and pass it on to others. I think John has in his mind’s eye here the moment when he saw the resurrected Jesus.  (see previous post on hands on learning) The message is clear, we are to take what has become real to us in our Christian life and share it a real way with others.

Camp with all of its true life experiences gives to us the precious opportunities to apply God’s Word to life. I hope you all are thinking of what you can share to help others make the Word come to life this summer with your own hands on learning experiences. More to come, please jump in with a comment.

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Hands on Learning – Opening Minds to Understand

The informal hands on learning experience that happens at camp attracted me to outdoor ministry. That’s a big reason I often write an “Inspired by Creation” post; it has some kind of informal “on the trail” Bible life application.

This experienced based learning, as we often call it, was very much in the mainstream of Christ’s teaching methods. His very life gave many experienced based lessons to His followers. Luke 24:39-44 introduces Christ to His followers after His resurrection. This reincarnation to His friends provides a sensory attestation of His presence; His resurrection as promised becomes a tangible, indelible memory and teachable moment.

To the disbelief surrounding Him He says, “Behold my hands, my feet and see that I am He… handle Me and see!”

Our senses bring our minds to life. I think a lot of minds are instantly engaged with Jesus at this moment! Their senses now engaged their minds to thought, interaction and memory. And so we read in verse 45, after he has engaged their minds with this extraordinary experiential learning moment that “He opened their minds to understand the Scripture.” His teaching not understood before now becomes real. The ultimate hands on learning experience!

Campers come to camp and their senses come alive. New sights, new sounds, smells, routines…. All these new experiences engage minds to open and hear the gospel message.

I’ll be expanding this concept in the days ahead. I’ll be interested in hearing how you are inviting campers to come, touch and see the gospel with hands on lessons that so naturally happen at camp.

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In My Mind’s Eye

I hike with an old and simple digital camera. It’s amazing that I get decent pictures to share at all. In the last few days I’ve had some pretty cool shots come to my eyes. This morning on my daily hike, I came upon wood ducks occupying a vernal spring pond. One pair flew off, the other pair decided to perch on the beech tree above me. Rare luck that is, they usually spook and fly away. A little later I would spy deer bedded down in a well hidden thicket.

I don’t have the images recorded but the best pictures remain in my mind’s eye, indelibly recorded. It seems my mind has a more efficient filling system for memorable images than what I do with the camera. I seem to collect every image, good or bad. I’m sure my mind does too, but it recalls only the best. How is it that I can still see the Grand Canyon from my trip west as a five year old, and Mt. Rushmore too?

My daily hikes leave me with vivid memories too. Watching the early spring courtship of two Pileated Woodpeckers a couple of years ago registers as an in my mind’s eye video classic; an in house living color nature film. Last week I saw hooded Mergansers for the first time. Now it’s permanently etched in my mind’s best of wildlife photo file. First time memories seem to always stand out. But simple memories stand out too. Like my boy’s head sticking out of the hollow log he climbed through on a hike picnic years ago.

The mind God gave us to capture these images is pretty amazing. It’s quite the all in one image machine, focusing, colorizing, storing and retrieving the best. Only for me, not being any kind of artist, there is no reproduction capability. Yep, it’s pretty amazing how fearfully and wonderfully made we are by a loving creator, and how it all functions so well. With my mind eye properly engaged, I guess I’ll always be able to capture and store great pictures.

But you know what, a camera as a functional adult toy would still be a really cool gadget to play with. Somehow those camera pictures will still be tough to compare to my mind’s eye.

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Keys for a Successful Summer Camp Ministry Heart

I found this in old staff training notes. It makes a good barometer for heart preparedness to start staff training, and a good evaluation of commitment at the end of training. During the summer it makes for a good follow up tool to keep the heart and mind engaged in a proper attitude of service.

  1. Give your life in Total Surrendered to God
  2. Have  Great Love for People
  3. A Passion for Reaching Lost People
  4. Be Constantly Ready to Pray
  5. Be Dependent Upon the Holy Spirit’s Power
  6. Be Dedicated to His Word
  7. Live in Faith That Trust in God
  8. Be Fervently Commitment to Personal Holiness
  9. Develop a Heart of Humility
  10. Consecrate your service then concentrate on your given ministry


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