The definition of “linchpin”: 1. a person or thing vital to an enterprise or organization. 2. a pin passed through the end of an axle to keep a wheel in position.
Either definition works in regards to summer camps and creating an inviting culture with your group. The first definition would be true in the fact that summer camp has the biggest potential to get new students plugged into your community and to have students invite friends to something worth coming to. Everything hinges off summer camp. The second definition works because without summer camp, our ministry rolling into the fall would make it seem like the wheel is falling off of the momentum we want going into the new year. Summer camp keeps the wheels on and rolling.
Our camp is 5 days long. If you add up the hour’s students are at camp and being involved in spiritual things to how many Wednesday nights they attend with small groups are almost equal. There is something that happens at camp that happens nowhere else. If you have been in ministry for any length of time you know this. So instead of just doing a camp to do camp what if you were to be as intentional about the cap you go to as you would do anything else you do? What if you were able to use camp as the catalyst to launch an inviting culture for the rest of the year and program the rest of your year based on your summer camp?
We have one episode one of two on this idea in detail if you want to hear more on our Youth Ministry Hacks Podcast.
Below is a list of thoughts on how we use summer camp as a catalyst to have an inviting culture:
- Camp can be challenging to the believer but also can be engaging to a non-believer. Camp should be a place where students who already know Jesus can be challenged to grow in their faith but also be a camp in which a non-believing friend would enjoy coming to so they are exposed to the good news of Jesus. Just like your service, if it’s not worth being invited to, your students will not invite their friends.
- I know if I can get a student to camp, I can get them all year long to be involved with our services and small groups. Summer camp should and can be one of the biggest invites to an event in your group. Once a new student goes, the likelihood of them staying involved is way higher. So what are you doing to get new students to go to summer camp?
- Everything we do in the fall is based on summer camp:
- How we program our services – We include songs we learn from camp in our weekly programming. When that song is played, it triggers people back to camp when energy is high and it could translate into your service. We play the games they do at camp. We even do a series every single year called “Kingdom Workers” which is the language the camp we go to uses and then at the end of that series sign ups begin.
- Small groups – People are placed in camps at our summer camps and relationships are formed and some breakthroughs happen. We hit on this hard when we get back and encourage all students to get into a group when they launch in the fall to say, “You can have this experience all year long with these people in a small group.”
- Leaders and relationships – I tell new leaders all of the time, “If you can go to summer camp, you will be more effective during the year.” And they are.
- Summer Camp Celebration Service – We do a celebration service the week we get back from camp. It takes over our Wednesday night and we sing the camp songs, play camp games, instead of a sermon we have testimonies from camp and then we have baptisms based on decisions made at camp. It’s one of the most powerful things we do all year. This solidifies anyone who was not at camp but saw the celebration service the idea of FOMO (fear of missing out) and they want to go next year.
All of this just continues to build the momentum and energy and community. Guess where students want to invite their friends too? Places where there is momentum, energy, and community. Summer camp can be a huge linchpin for your entire year to creating this inviting culture you are craving.
So the question has to be asked?
Does the camp you go to serve only the students that already know Jesus or is it something a non-churched student can come to and feel comfortable?