Cultivating Change | Moments from High School Camp
By Kate Berkey - July 26, 2018
Posted in Student Ministry, Summer Camps, High School Ministry, Stories from NMC
In April, we began to talk about this thing called summer camp. We told stories as if we were gathered around the campfire, roasting marshmallows together. We invited people to come behind students struggling to get to camp by donating to the scholarship fund. We encouraged parents to block out the camp dates in their family’s calendar. We anticipated the many incredible moments that were only a few months away.
Last week, four months after we first started to talk about camps, our final summer camp ended. Every year we are amazed at what God cultivates through all of our camps. This year was no different, especially at high school camp.
Tim wasn’t necessarily planning on saying it, but after the words came out of his mouth, it seemed more than fitting. It was a snippet from a message from another church, something he’d heard right before camp, and it was exactly what our students needed in the moment.
“We’re not waiting for the move of God. We are the move of God.”
This year, more than any other, our Student Ministries team wanted to see high schoolers empowered to step out in faith, to own their relationship with Jesus in ways that were new to them, to step into the identity Christ had given them. They wanted students to understand that God is working and moving. His movement, His walking with creation, His fighting for people, is not something we need to wait for. It’s already happening because it’s who He is. And our high school students left Beulah Beach empowered to join Him in this work.
They were empowered to pray for and over one another. They were empowered to use their gifts and talents to join the work Jesus is doing in their schools. They were empowered to dream big, audacious dreams, trusting Jesus to lead them step by step. They were empowered to be filled by the Holy Spirit. They were empowered as sons and daughters, knowing that they are deeply and unconditionally loved by Jesus.
Sprinkled in between TAWG, cabin time, and sessions, were moments of crazy fun. Students were divided into color teams, competing in games and challenges to see which team came out the winner at the end of camp.
Teams competed in a game of Fortnite, a “fight-to-the-death” kind of game when they first arrived. They played penguin soccer and human shuffle board. They competed in a relay race in Lake Erie and a belly flop competition. They bonded through initial awkward, get-to-know-you conversations, strategy development for the human javelin game, and a collective wince at the perfect belly flop.
This kind of crazy fun didn’t just create memories of laughter and joy. It also created a sense of unity during an age when cliques can divide. Instead of sticking with their friends, they formed connections outside of their bubble. Upperclassmen intentionally sought out underclassmen to remind them that they were seen and loved and valued. Space was created for those students who find themselves on the margins. There was a place for everyone as relational bridges were built between varying groups.
Cultivate the Unknown
“I will lift my eyes to things unseen
To the promise in your victory
And I will build my life on the mystery
Of where you call me, and I will go
Into the unknown.”
Unknown by Mosaic
High School’s camp theme, Unknown, was a focus that reached all students. For some, God was both known and unknown. They had a relationship with Him, but there was a sense of mystery because our God cannot be fully known. For some students, though, God was deeply unknown. There was no personal relationship, no experiences of God’s love and grace and reconciliation. No matter where students found themselves, our high school staff wanted them to walk away from camp knowing how deeply loved, seen, and known they were.
Our high school crew started out in Acts 17, walking with Paul through Athens, seeing the idols set up to gods. With Paul, they stumbled across the idol to the unknown god and heard Paul’s passion as he told the people about the God they did not know. Throughout the rest of camp, Pastors Tim, Sam, and Lindsay talked about this unknown God and the ways that we are known in and through Him.
For some students, though, this was their first encounter with this unknown God. They may have heard about Jesus before, seen His love from afar, but during camp, some collided with Him for the first time, entering into a new relationship. Others began to understand for the first time just how loved they are by Jesus. This is why we do camp. These moments of colliding with Jesus and moments of understanding parts of His character for the first time changed students in deep and profound ways.
Every year as camps come and go, our prayer is that God would change lives, that He would plant seeds that will only continue to grow. We don’t desire for students to experience a spiritual high and crash when they come home. Our prayer is for lasting life change. Every year, God is faithful, and this year, He was faithful again.
NMC, thank you for giving your time and resources to camp. Thank you for praying for students. Thank you for serving at camp. Thank you for believing in the power of summer camp. We are excited to see how God continues to cultivate change in students’ lives in the months and years to come because of camp.