When you talk to students who have accepted Christ and ask them where they made their decision, either to follow Him for the first time or to get their relationship right with Him after a rebellious time, many will answer with “at camp.” Over the last several decades of student ministry, summer camp seems to be a prime location for students to meet with God in amazing ways.
A secondary way that camp impacts teens is through them coming home from an incredible week with a new fire to share their faith with their friends. Many students have been won to Christ by a friend coming home from camp and displaying the difference Christ makes.
Summer is a huge opportunity for evangelism in any student ministry today. As a youth leader, this is where planning a student’s first step in discipleship is crucial. Getting these students started in the disciplines of the faith to keep them growing for a lifetime is vital to a strong student ministry. That is why it is a must to set up a consistent discipleship plan that you use on an on-going basis, so you aren’t responding to every student that makes a decision with “let me see what I can come up with for you.” There are some decisions to make in arriving at the right platform for you and your church. Here we go . . .
First, what material will you use to train your students? This should be a simple, yet Biblically solid resource that you can use regularly. Find the balance between being user-friendly for the leader and solid for the student. Make sure it is fitting with your church’s doctrine. Don’t use something you have to re-word, re-teach, or apologize for. And, of course, you can’t break the budget. There are reasonably priced quality resources out there.
Second, who is going to teach these students or facilitate the material with them? There are three options to consider, depending on your church and your availability of solid believers.
1—You. Start a class where you are their first discipler. As their youth leader, showing you care and are accessible can be a huge positive—the first person to answer their questions and teach them the basics. They may go on to be taught by others in the church after this, but their first leader relationship is you.
2—Adult Volunteers. Most churches, small or large, have a core of dedicated, committed, and solid men and women that are capable of discipling students. The advantage of this is that you are allowing others’ gifts to be used and you are equipping both the adults and the students to do ministry. We all know we grow when we have the responsibility to teach. This is an especially good option if you are a summer youth pastor or know you won’t be at this particular church long-term.
3—Older, mature students. Hopefully, by the time your students have reached their junior and senior year in high school, they are becoming mature believers. A great segue in their walk is to give them leadership responsibilities inside the student ministry. Older students discipling younger students can be a powerful alliance in the church. And no one understands the plight of a 14-year-old quite like a 17-year-old that just went through everything they are struggling with. This choice needs watch care for many reasons, but can be a win-win for everyone if handled with wisdom.
The end goal for any pastor, paid or volunteer, full-time or part-time, is to develop mature believers in Christ. As a youth leader, you have a maximum of six to seven years, often less, to reach that goal for the average student who starts in your ministry. Keeping the focus on maturity and not entertainment is an uphill battle in today’s culture. Regardless of the method you choose or the manpower you implement, make maturity your goal. Your students deserve nothing less.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.—Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV