We are getting ready to head to summer camp. YUS! I love it. Our high schoolers are going to CIY MOVE and our junior highers are going to CIY MIX. I could go on and on about why I love CIY, but you really check them out. But we love summer camp for a number of reasons. Students encounter God in a real way there. Students make first time decisions. It could change the trajectory of their lives. It’s summer powerful.

Summer camp is huge in our ministry not only because it’s the largest thing we do all year but we use summer camp as a huge momentum building during the summer to help sling shot momentum into the fall and help make it last as long as we can.

We capitalize of the energy, decisions, and relationships build at camp in a way that will be beneficial for our students to take next steps, encourage small groups and keep energy high in our service.

Here is what and how we do this on our services:

We cancel service the week of camp – Camp is a big deal. It’s such a big deal that we are all going to camp so no one here is here to put on service. We don’t cancel service often but this shows we put a huge priority on camp.

Summer camp celebration – This is something I got from my time at Saddleback HSM and I took it and made it my own. The week after camp is a service to bring camp back to church. We sing all of the same songs. We play the same games. There is no sermon but stories of life change. There are baptisms for those who made decisions at camp. We will celebrate loud, hard and often. This also is a big push for those who didn’t go to camp to go next year because they see how awesome it was.

Natural small groups are formed – The groups that happen at camp get really deep really fast. It’s awesome. So we make sure and encourage our leaders going to be small group leaders during the fall so they can continue the group throughout the year.

Use the last night as camp to challenge students coming home – Last thing I want is for students to experience this awesome thing and then just go home with nothing changing. One of my favorite parts about CIY is they allow a “youth group time” where it’s just your group in one room and you get to talk through what God has been teaching students that day. We always use the last day to challenge students to take what they saw at camp, the energy during worship at camp, the community at camp and challenge them to bring it to camp. We challenge them to make every Wednesday a camp-like experience and will remind them throughout the year.

We tell stories all year-long about camp – As a pastor, you know (and could be sad about it) is that no student will ever remember a sermon you preached. But they will remember when their peers get up and share stories about life change. So all year-long, whenever it fits, we have students share parts of their lives from stage and we know most of them happen at camp. So all year-long they hear “at camp”, “at camp”, “at camp” and students hear it and go… man, I need God to move in me like that. I need to go to camp next year.

Summer camp songs become a part of our set list – For us, last year Real Love by Young and Free was OUR SONG! Students loved it. Whenever they would hear it would bring them back to camp. There are moments like this you can incorporate in your service all year-long to help build and keep the awesome momentum from camp.

Don’t let camp happen and then let it be done. In your ministry you can be strategic and use summer camp as a launching pad for many other great things in your ministry. Take a step back and look how you can use the awesome-ness of summer camps to build and grow ministry.