Comments from 2012 camper surveys:
“There is no experience like living with people just like you for even a week and [knowing] the Kingdom of God will be like this forever” (Camp Cotubic).
“My family isn’t in the Church, and being a part of camp showed me a glimpse of what being in God’s family is really like. So much love and unity is present, and it’s absolutely beautiful. I’ve never felt the way I did here” (Camp Hye Sierra).
“It’s a place that holds so many great memories. I met some of my best friends here. I always look forward to this week. It’s a highlight of my year” (Camp Hye Sierra).
“It cemented in my mind why God’s way works and made me decide fully that this is how I want to live the rest of my life. Before camp I wasn’t 100 percent, but now my life is very clearly moving forward” (Northwest Camp).
It doesn’t get any better than this! Now you know from campers themselves what the United Youth Camps program is all about. More than 500 campers attended a camp in 2013. In this article we will focus on what the United Youth Camps program is about from the campers’ perspectives. We will also see how we can, as a Church family, better serve the youth among us.
I heard one staff member lightheartedly comment that the campers would be content having camp in a parking lot. Activities are important in their own right, and they do teach valuable lessons in a variety of ways, but they are secondary to the two top reasons why campers attend—1) to learn more about God and His way of life and 2) develop friendships.
The core of our camp schedule is built around the Christian living classes. Each year our six camp directors carefully select a biblical theme to be used at all the teen camps, and this main theme is then divided into five daily lessons for Monday-Friday. These sub-themes are emphasized all day long, from the dorm prayer before breakfast, to Christian living class after breakfast, to the activities during the day, and into the evening campfire and dorm discussion at bedtime. In recent years the campers have zealously responded to this practical teaching method, and it has born fruit in their lives.
God Calls Youth
“For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39 Acts 2:39For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
American King James Version×). What is the promise given here by God? The answer is the previous verse, Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
In His plan of salvation God definitely focuses on teens and preteens. Frankly, this truth is one of the most comforting things God can do for parents. As parents we can sometime struggle with the challenge of child-rearing. Our children may seem to be always changing from one stage to another. Yet through all of this, God is the constant in our lives as parents and in the lives of our children. God most definitely answers the prayers of believing and faithful fathers and mothers.
The United Youth Camps 2013 camper survey asked campers if they “believe God is calling me in His Church.” A whopping 96 percent of the campers answered “yes” to this question. We know that God is true to His Word, and He is fulfilling His promise to have a relationship with youth as they respond to Him.
Of great encouragement to both parents and youth is 1 Corinthians 7:14 1 Corinthians 7:14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
American King James Version×: “ For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.”
Much more about this subject is found in the United Church of God study paper “Are Our Children Called Now?” page 2: “When adults don’t know whether our children are called now, their conversations will reflect this with phrases such as, ‘I don’t know whether God will call my child or not’ and ‘Since our children are not called now, we can’t expect too much out of them.’ When children hear these kinds of statements, they often feel it doesn’t matter which way they choose” (http://members.ucg.org/content/study-papers). You may want to read further from this helpful study paper.
In John 14:17 John 14:17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you.
American King James Version×we read that Jesus Christ told the disciples that God’s Holy Spirit was with them even before they were baptized. The same is true for youth in God’s Church today.
As president Victor Kubik told the camp directors at their annual camp conference last fall, “Working with the children and youth is an extremely important function of the Church.” And working with youth is a Church-wide opportunity for all of us.
As members of a loving congregation, let’s support each other in what God is calling each and every one of us to become: fully adopted members of our Father’s family. Locally it is imperative for each member to warmly include youth in your Sabbath fellowship—to say hello, ask questions about school or career plans, etc. Young people do naturally respond to adults who show an interest in them. Develop a relationship with them in your local congregation. Invite them and their parents to your home for a meal and fellowship. Remember: We are family.
Congregational support is also mentioned in the study paper referenced earlier on page 14: “Parents and all members of the Church must view children as genuine, respected participants of the congregation, hoping and expecting that they will become baptized fellow members. The biblical perspective is always to encourage people to answer God’s calling, as opposed to offering loopholes legitimizing no response. Implying that it is equally valid for a child not to respond to God now is a serious mistake. Just as Abraham ‘commanded’ his children, God urged ancient Israel to respond to Him for their own good. He said, ‘I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live’ (Deuteronomy 30:19 Deuteronomy 30:19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
American King James Version×). Because God’s calling represents the best life available, children should be kept well aware of God’s special invitation to them now.”
The largest group of “prospective members” in the Church is the young people—teens and preteens! We highly value and respect each of them as a son or daughter of God. We appreciate their service to God and in their local congregations. Thank you, children and teens, for your dedication to God and being such a vital part of God’s Church. Young people of all ages need to feel a part, as well as to be a part, of their local congregation. Let’s all work together to make it happen.
Youth Desire to be Taught
Unfortunately many parents who are not associated with our way of life do not spend time teaching spiritual principles to their children. The following is from a study by the Barna Group, “Parents Accept Responsibility for Their Child’s Spiritual Development But Struggle With Effectiveness,” May 6, 2003: “The Barna study found that close to nine out of ten parents of children under age 13 (85%) believe they have the primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual matters. Related research, however, revealed that a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children. Most of those parents are willing to let their church or religious center provide all of the direct religious teaching and related religious experiences that their children receive.”
Parents, remember that daily prayer with your children is a vital part of your service to them. Praying with them helps them grow in faith. Suggestion: Don’t let your children leave home without a morning prayer together. We do this at all UYC camps every morning without exception. There is dorm prayer first thing before the camp day begins. The counselors and campers will take turns praying about the day coming up, praying about their “daily needs” and asking God to be with them. Each day also ends with a dorm prayer.
On a personal note, when our children were young my wife would regularly pray with each of our three children for their “daily needs.” This might have been for specific clothing items (low price, specific color, style and size), for help with homework or about trials they were going through. There was never a shortage of things to pray about. And when God “supplied” their daily needs in answered prayer in these specific ways, guess what? They grew in faith! Now as adults they still remember how God answered these specific prayers many years ago. These experiences helped each of them grow in faith and to develop their personal relationship with God. They observed how their mother lived her life and how she prayed with them. She mentored them very successfully by taking an active part in their lives through prayer. And I am so thankful she did.
As we do at camp, make the words of Deuteronomy 6:6-9 Deuteronomy 6:6-9 6 And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart:
7 And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
8 And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
9 And you shall write them on the posts of your house, and on your gates.
American King James Version×come alive in your family life: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Children need to observe their parents’ relationship with God. They need to know that the parent is praying and studying the Bible. In essence, they need to see their parent live a godly life of character and behavior. Is this challenging as a parent? Of course. But God will not let a parent down as that person faithfully follows Him.
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (Isaiah 54:13 Isaiah 54:13And all your children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of your children.
American King James Version×).
So parents and youth, continue to gather around the dining room table and study the truths of God as a family. Share the Bible stories, learn the life lessons and talk in detail how to implement God’s truths in your lives.
Younger people need to know that godly wisdom is a most precious item to have—not status with friends or physical items. They need to see their parents happy and content with the blessings God has given.
It is vital that parents share their personal relationship with God and mentor their children on how to seek God and come to better know God the Father and Jesus Christ. Youth of all ages should be learning all of this at home, and then the Church can add to this through sermons, literature, camp and Church activities.
Children and teens need to see and to know deeply, on a personal level, that God’s way works: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalms 34:8-11 Psalms 34:8-11 8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him.
9 O fear the LORD, you his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
American King James Version×).
Additional comments from 2012 parent and camper surveys:
“[My child] has made a wide variety of friends throughout the country and built confidence while learning new skills and activities. More excited about Church and Church activities” (parent, Camp Pinecrest).
“[My daughter] has always been positive but when she comes from camp she is motivated to pray more and live God’s way more than before she goes. It is like a mini-Feast, she said” (parent, Northwest Camp).
“This camp has encouraged me to have a better relationship with God and has taught me how important it is to follow God” (camper, Camp Woodmen).
“I’ve been coming to camp for three years. Coming to camp for 1 week is more than anyone in this camp could possibly understand. My cup of blessings overflow!” (camper, Camp Cotubic).
It doesn’t get any better than this!