Summer camps are an effective means to bring children into an encounter with the kingdom of God. As they unplug from technology, they are immersed in an environment customized to promote spiritual hunger.
Begin planning for next summer's camps now, and keep these things in mind:
Camp staff. All applicants should complete an application, receive background checks and be vetted with sex offender registries. References also must be checked. Each applicant should be interviewed, with assessment of motives, values, ministry and work ethic, as well as a discussion of any struggles with sin. If the applicant passes that stage, his name should be vetted through other senior-level directors and leaders. The camp director should decide on placement, and the applicant should attend training.
Location. Children are adaptable to different locations, from tents in a field to cots in classrooms. Worship and teaching times should be arranged where children will have the least distractions. Recreational activities can be held outside or in a gym. If a pool is not available, water hoses can fill blow-up pools, water balloons, power sprinklers and giant homemade slip-n-slides. Roast s'mores in a fire pit if a bonfire isn't feasible.
Schedule. Children should have enough time at camp to be impacted in a way that causes them to live differently when they return home. Having a few days with children is important for stirring up a hunger and thirst for God. Some children come to camp with walls that slowly come down through ministry times. Others have dull spirits that come alive during camp. Use a simple survey at the end of camp to assess its duration.
Teaching and training. The campers need to experience what is on God's heart for them rather than relying on standard curricula. In light of the times we live in, and in light of what is coming, leaders must ask, "What is the word of the Lord for the children at this camp?" Devotionals, afternoon breakouts and morning/evening teaching sessions should all be based on the theme and Scriptures given by the Lord for this camp. Use hands-on training as well to equip children in praying for the sick or sharing the gospel.
Worship. The camp director must prayerfully choose a leader who can bring the presence of the Holy Spirit in worship. Also, the director should help decide what songs are used. During worship, the director should be in front, encouraging the children, modeling worship and training them to engage. Extended ministry times before and after can be used to pray for the children and have them pray for other campers and needs.
Summer fun. Small groups promote friendship-building, team spirit and a sense of belonging. Children will return to camp year after year for the experiences of encountering the kingdom of God, seeing their friends and having fun.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for help in starting an equipping camp.
Lenny La Guardia is executive director of the Children's Equipping Center and vice president of ministries at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.
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