Why run summer camps?

Colin Morris

During lockdown my wife and I cleared out the greenhouse at the bottom of the garden. Over the past number of years it has become a home for weeds, tall grass as well as odd bits of wood, gardening items and even an old dog kennel!

The COVID-19 lockdown has caused many businesses and buildings to repurpose. With our greenhouse, it was not a case of repurposing but rather reclaiming it for the purpose it was originally built. It was built to grow, to grow fruit that will last. Fruit that will last even when outside of the safe, controlled environment.

The greenhouse is a picture of what youth and children’s ministry should be like. Whether it is Sunday school, youth group or bible camp, these should be ministries that feed and nourish young Christians, so that they will grow in spiritual maturity and last in their faith long after they leave the safe, controlled environment of our meetings or camps. So, how can we build to grow?

Build with God’s plan

When lockdown was imposed, emergency planning took place. Now, plans are being made for when lockdown is lifted. Each country is looking to others to see if they’re doing the right thing. For ministry with children and young people, rather than ask, ‘What plan does the church down the road have?’ we need to ask, ‘What is God’s plan?’ 

God’s word is clear about God’s plan. He wants to grow his people (numerically and spiritually) through his word. So to grow Christians who will last when outside of the safe, controlled environment of youth ministry programmes, we need to help them build deep roots in God’s word. 

Crosslinks has been building with this model this for many years in Ireland and, more recently, with InterAction Camps (France, Belgium, Germany) and Acorn Camps (Hungary, with mission partners Anna Poór and Andy and Zsófi Oatridge). They all focus on training, building, equipping and growing the next generation through summer camps and training courses. In Ireland and Hungary, this years’ camps have been cancelled but the training courses have continued despite restrictions. Students in both Ireland and Hungary have met online to be equipped for growing young disciples.

The fruit of camp ministry can be seen in former campers. Peter volunteered at Crosslinks camps in Ireland. He greatly valued to opportunity to teach the next generation about Jesus. On top of this, camp meant a lot to him personally: 'I learnt about Jesus and what it means to follow him and I discovered how to play my part in God’s mission in God’s world.' That has led Peter into full time ordained ministry in Belfast and now he and his wife send their daughter to camp to, 'explore for herself what it is like to be a Christian and delve deeper into the Bible'.

Like in Ireland, Acorn Camps in Hungary have proved to be of huge benefit in the training up of a new generation of workers. Szilárd is from Hungary but has been living in the UK for the past six years. In recent years he has served with Acorn Camps - leading activities, discussions and seminars. This September he shall join the team there on a short-term mission placement. 'One of the highlights for me is the mutual encouragement that happens between everyone on camp. Spending a handful of days with other people actively getting to know Jesus better is invaluable.' Building relationships for the purpose of growing together in the gospel is a hallmark of camps.

Sadly camps will not be taking place as they normally would due to the coronavirus restrictions. Yet despite changed plans the going out of the gospel continues. Plans are in place for children and young people to access programmes online (Ireland) and in local churches (Hungary) in which the good news about Jesus and God’s plan for the world will be shared. New training courses for leaders will also begin in both Hungary and Ireland this September.

Get in touch if you'd like to find out more about Building to Grow (Ireland), CORE (Hungary) or camps in either country.