Last summer I led a small group of teenagers at Camp 220 with my church. I had heard many great things about this camp and how teens’ lives had been dramatically changed, and I wanted to experience it first hand with the students from my neighborhood Bible club. It was an unforgettable experience, to say the least.
Camp 220 was no ordinary teen camp, prioritizing fun and games over spiritual matters. The teens did have wild and crazy fun, but they also had the opportunity to hear amazing teachings from God’s Word, experience passionate worship, and discover the power of prayer and healing.
My eyes were opened in a new way to the importance of camps for our teenagers today. I saw the lives and struggles our teenagers face, and I realized several reasons why Christian camps can be so life giving to our next generation.
1. Teens Can ‘Get Away’ From Their Broken World to be Immersed in God’s Love. In small group time, we discussed common temptations and struggles, and I was struck by how much brokenness they faced on a day-to-day basis. Social media bullying, divorce, parents with alcoholism, abuse, neglect, peer pressure with dating, drugs, alcohol, theft…the list goes on and on. But one of the great things about camp was the opportunity for the teens to get away form all of the junk they deal with and just be inundated with God’s Spirit and truth through worship, Bible teaching, Bible study, and prayer. Even students that hadn’t experienced as much brokenness and temptation were able to get away from the norm and experience God in bigger and more intimate ways.
2. Teens Realize They’re Not Alone. As students began to open up, they realized others were dealing with the same struggles and temptations. When one started sharing about his father’s alcohol addiction, another spoke up about her dad’s struggle with it too and how she had been hurt by it as well. When one girl was dealing with the need to forgive from a very hurtful situation, an older teen spoke up and gave a testimony of how she was able to forgive in a difficult situation and the freedom it brought her. She was then able to walk through the steps of forgiveness with the younger teen, who was able to forgive and receive that freedom as well.
3. Teens Form Great Friendships and Accountability. Because the teens had lots of fun together and opened up about their biggest struggles, they formed deeper friendships. In a world that relies on social media for supernatural friendships, this can be very lacking for today’s teens. Because our teenagers will become like the people they spend time with, it is essential for them to have strong friendships with peers that also want to follow the Lord. Like-minded friendships can also bring great accountability to continue to follow the Lord when they come back to the real world. Teens may also form mentorships with small group leaders and older, more spiritually mature teens, who can encourage them in their faith.
4. Teens Develop a Passion for Jesus. One of the beautiful things about camp was how the teens developed a stronger passion for the Lord and worshiping Him. The teen culture tends to be passionate about things in life, whether it’s movies, music, friends, games, or fashion, so to direct their passion toward Jesus is a powerful thing. Students typically love music, and because God speaks to us powerfully through lyrics and touches our emotions in song, these students were soaked in God’s truth and love all week long. Hearing and speaking out the truth from worship songs allowed them to start believing truths about who God is and how He sees them. Teens also begin to open their Bibles more and receive with open minds God’s Word to change their hearts and lives.
5. Teens Experience True Healing and Salvation. Teens tend to cover up their hurt and pain by trying to belong to a group and “fit in” like everyone else, so when they are allowed to be vulnerable and realize it’s okay to cry and let out the hurt inside, they give God the opportunity to bring healing and restoration to their broken hearts. One of the things I loved about this camp was the amazing prayer time. There was a designated prayer team that prayed before, during, and after camp for these students by name, and I believe God moved in supernatural ways because of that. The team was always available to these students for prayer, and they were at the alter during response time to pray and minister to the students. They would ask God to speak to these teens, and God DID. I heard story after story of how God spoke to their hearts the way no one else could. Lies they were believing would be brought to light, and they were able to reject those lies and receive God’s truth. One teen who had turned away from God and had been using drugs before camp heard Jesus tell him that he didn’t need drugs anymore to numb his pain because Jesus was the only drug he needed. Only God could truly heal the pain of his broken heart and fill him up with true joy.
Christian camps can be amazing, and of course the kids tend to experience what some call a “spiritual high” or “camp high,” but really the experience is an INCREDIBLE ENCOUNTER WITH GOD, just as Moses had on Mt. Sinai, and the woman at the well had with Jesus. It is a moment in time when they meet God in an intimate way that changes them deeply, and they will always remember and hold on to that testimony the rest of their lives. Sure, no one is perfect, and teens may still fall away when the momentum of camp “wears out” if they don’t have a strong system of accountability and discipleship. However, the more they can get away from the corruption of our culture and meet with God, the more they can be filled up with His Spirit and be better equipped to live with and for Jesus when they go back into the valleys of everyday life.
Here is a list of teen camps/conferences recommended with similar elements.
Camp 220 Waxahachie, TX
Pine Cove Camp – Central and East, TX
BigStuf Camp -Panama City Beach, FL
Passion Camp – Daytona Beach, FL (with Louie Giglio)
Motion X – Birmingham, AL
Student Life Camp– multiple locations across US
Fuge Camps– multiple locations across US
TeenStreet– Oldenburg, Germany