From David to the apostles, God has been empowering and leading young people for generations to bring glory to his name and transform the lives of those around them — but his work in and through young people didn’t end in biblical times.
Across the United States, Canada and around the world, The Wesleyan Church (TWC) responds to God’s ever-present call to use and disciple young people into Christ-like living and leadership through its NextGen Ministries. One place in which this happens is at youth camps, which provide an opportunity for students to step away from worldly influences and connect deeply and purposefully with Christ.
Stephen Martin, assistant pastor for youth and worship at Summit Church in Buffalo, Wyoming, and camp director for the Northwest District of TWC, passionately believes in the transformational power God imparts upon youth camps.
“Without fail, the Holy Spirit transforms students’ lives at camp, convicts them of sins, challenges them to grow and calls them to service,” he said.
Martin believes these camp experiences allow students to better recognize God’s grace, mercy and love because camps isolate the distractions young people face in everyday life. They are better able to listen and hear him and are joined with like-minded students and leaders they love and trust.
“We have had students throw away their razor blades because they had been cutting. We’ve had students quit using drugs and alcohol. We’ve had students open up about abuses, which they were then able to sort out back home. We’ve had students forgive people that have hurt them deeply,” Martin said. “The stories can go on and on, but the point remains: camp is important!”
And Martin is not alone in his beliefs on how God uses camp to connect with young people.
Justin Metiva, youth pastor at Good News Community Church in Festus, Missouri, and district youth president for the Tri-State District, believes local church support of youth camps is an unparalleled investment in the health, growth and sustaining work of the church.
“Over the last seven years, the Tri-State District camp has had over 200 first-time commitments, over 800 recommitments and 350 plus baptisms and we have seen 100 students and adults receive a call into some sort of ministry. These numbers exist because of the investment of our local church partners,” Metiva said. “I love the energy and momentum the district camp can provide the churches in the district. When the mission and vision of the district ministries merge with the mission and vision of the local church, we see a movement happen.”
With the ever-growing challenges facing young people today, youth camps offer a sanctuary where students can connect with a God that is powerful enough to overcome their everyday enemies.
“God is still using camps in amazing ways. He is still saving students, transforming them, making them new, killing addictions, providing hope and calling future leaders. Camp ministries are incredible opportunities for students to encounter Jesus, get to know him, surrender more of themselves to his Lordship and submit to his will,” Martin said. “I see it happen every year.”
Rev. Zach Coffin, director of NextGen Ministries for The Wesleyan Church, sees the importance these camps have on both middle and high school students.
“Camp gives students and youth leaders a chance to step away from their routine and press deeper into God,” said Coffin. “Each summer God is faithful to meet students with freedom, calling and empowerment to live changed.”
Coffin believes the power of camp cannot be undervalued.
“We cannot underestimate the impact of stepping out of our normal routine to encounter God,” said Coffin. “Meeting God on top of the mountain empowers us to live changed back in our day to day. Camp helps us climb the mountain to encounter God in a fresh way.”