During the workshop at Annual Conference, a gentleman asked if I thought our rural churches should be sending kids to camp. I simply answered, “Yes!” As I have reflected on that, I felt I should add to my answer: It is wonderful to send kids to camp AND we should go with them. If there is absolutely no way you can physically attend with your students, then we at least need to make a big deal of follow-up when they return. The week of camp experience needs to enhance our relationship with our students rather than become something we simply support financially. I would say that about anything we might send students too.
Again, this is a place where we shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box. Attending with your students may mean participating in leadership for the week, or it could mean helping out for a day or with one part of each day (depending on your commute). This past week at Discovery Camp, we had a number of local ladies who participated in leading the sewing group for a few hours each morning and/or afternoon. They were not able to stay all day and overnight, but they were able to participate in this part of the experience. Taking some time to check in specifically with the students from their churches, helps to build the connection between the week of camp and daily discipleship at home.
Another way to “go with them” might be to send letters to let them know you are thinking about and praying for them and can’t wait to hear all about their week. This could even provide an opportunity for your students to take part in worship leadership as they are invited to share from their camp experience the following Sunday. Yes, I recognize that your students may need coaching to prepare for that. This is another important part of discipleship: teaching them to articulate their faith and experiences of God and training them as leaders.
So, as you and your congregation consider ways to financially support new generation ministry experiences, consider also how you are bridging that ministry with ongoing discipleship and relationships at home.