Youth Camp is a huge deal for many churches. For the students, this is often a time when friendships are formed and life-changing decisions are made. For volunteers and leadership, this is an opportunity invest in the students and help them grow. For most churches, Youth Camp sets the tone for the student ministry as it gets ready to kick off the next school year.
I’ve been a part of many Youth Camps over the years as a student, a chaperone, a worship leader, and a speaker. I’ve seen huge camps with high energy and small camps that were more of an intimate setting. I’ve been to camps that were tucked into the remote parts of the mountains and camps that we on a busy beach. Being the musically minded person that I am, the time of worship at camp was always the thing that stuck out to me the most.
I’ve seen camp bands which consisted of just a guy on an acoustic guitar…all the way up to a 6 piece band running hazers & intelligent lighting synced with backtracks. Some of these camp bands/worship leaders were great at getting the students involved during the worship, while others struggled to connect and be relevant. I’ve personally led camps that were powerful and joyous only to lead a camp the following month that seemed to miss the mark.
In Youth Camps, our impact as worship leaders has nothing to do with band size, song selection, the camp location, or even the students themselves. Don’t get me wrong…those are important factors. But…our impact hinges on our ability to relate and invest in the students.
Relating to students-
According to Google, relate is defined as “to make or show a connection between”. To relate to our students means that we connect with them.
By hanging out with them.
The absolute WORST thing we can do as Youth Camp worship leaders is to not hang out with the students. This means we play the silly games, eat the terrible food, and if necessary, be a chaperone in the middle school boys room. Embrace that fact that you won’t get sleep and that all of your belongings will smell like a mixture of foot and Axe body spray. It’s okay. What happens at camp stays at camp.
Once I played at a camp in which we as a band would leave the camp frequently to eat and have our own free time. While the students were in the mess hall talking and telling stories with a mouth full of the overseasoned meatloaf…the band was at McDonald’s. When they were playing a mass game of capture the flag at 11 pm, we were at Waffle House. When the students were competing for the bragging rights of the best team, our band was off by ourselves exploring the local town.
Not hanging out with the students caused a huge disconnection. Rather than our time of worship being fun, powerful, and moving…it was bland and at many times just plain awkward! Despite the students knowing the songs and singing them loudly, they had zero connection with us. We were not there leading worship; we were performing music.
Relating to students at Youth Camp is two-fold. We have to relate to them both corporately and personally.
Corporately, we need to tell stories that relate directly to what has happened during that day and incorporate it into the time of worship. This means we do things like mention the winner of today’s ultimate frisbee or draw a parallel from the morning’s scripture to something that happened during lunch at the mess hall.
Personally, this means we talk to the students to learn about them. They may share their favorite worship song with us. That student may even open up to ask us to pray with them about something affecting them or their family. We need to be ready to listen and understand that student.
Investing in students-
When you invest in something, you are expecting that thing to give some sort of return.
-If you invest in a car, you’re expecting that it will give you a reliable form of transportation.
-If you invest in a business, you have the hopes that it will someday turn a profit to make you even more money.
-In the context of investing in a student at Youth Camp, you are hoping that God moves that student to action to make an impact for the Gospel.
How do we invest in our students?
We need to place a high value on our students by serving them, encouraging them, and taking the time to relate God’s Word to their lives.
I could expound on this even more…but if we’re already taking the time to relate to our students, the investing part comes easy. In a big sense, the simple act of being approachable and available to serve ultimately determines our ability to invest in them.
Whether we have a big band or we’re leading alone, leading worship at Youth Camp is not an easy task. Being able to relate and invest in the students means we have to be on our A-Game as worship leaders. It means we have our set-lists already planned. It means we’ve taken the time to research the camp and know about the facilities ahead of time. It means we communicate with the Youth Pastor in advance to know about the students and how to maximize their involvement. If we’re using AV equipment, we need to make sure we have everything that’s needed and verify it’s properly tested.
When we do these things ahead of time, we can spend the bulk of our time at camp doing the two things that matter most.
One more thing….know the coffee situation of the camp ahead of time. Seriously fam, don’t make a rookie mistake!
Now go have a great camp!