Last month, I attended my first ever National Youth Workers Conference in Tampa, Florida. If you are one of our youth pastors, you may be familiar with this event! If not, picture 3,000 youth leaders learning, worshipping, and playing together for a whole weekend. IT WAS AWESOME! I had the opportunity to learn valuable insight from seasoned veterans, hear encouraging stories from my peers, and see firsthand evidence as to what God is doing in the lives of students across the nation. I gained new perspectives, valuable insight, and have a refreshed and excited spirit to continue making camp a place for students to explore a relationship with Jesus as well as develop their relationship with their church and leaders.
Attending this conference allowed me to feel – in a very real way – like I was back in my youth group again. The wise men and women who were teaching were symbolic of my youth pastors – eager for their students to learn and retain life-changing information. I felt like I was on the receiving end of a camp program: I was reminded of all the moments and spaces that are created at camp for Jesus to be experienced – not just in chapel or Solo Time, but in the walking from place to place, the shared meals with friends, and the late night laughs.
In eighth grade, I was in a small group led by a woman named Joy. Joy was brave enough to take us to camp and stay in our cabin as a counselor. As an eighth-grade girl, I just assumed it was because she thought we were fun or enjoyed spending time with us. Like, who doesn’t enjoy hanging out with middle schoolers in their free time, right??! But now that I have been in the place where Joy was all those years ago, I realize that though Joy had her own busy life to maintain, she still made room to take us to a place where we could step aside from our daily life for a few days and experience the gospel in a quiet and fun place called camp.
Maybe you are the “Joy” in someone’s life – metaphorically or literally! You want the next generation to meet, know, and experience Jesus. You want to bring them to a safe space like Forest Home to allow them the space and moments to ask the hard questions and seek the answers. Know that the work you are doing matters. It has a HUGE impact. Who knows, maybe ten years from now when your middle school friends are twenty-eight, they’ll call you and tell you that it all makes sense and how that time you took to bring them to camp allowed them to experience Jesus and his love for the first time. All because of you.