This past week, I had the privilege of serving as the senior high youth speaker at Cedar Canyon Wesleyan Camp in Rapid City, South Dakota.
It was a great experience.
Admittedly, I have never considered myself to be a typical youth speaker. I am a college professor, an introvert, and a user of sermon illustrations that ranged (last week) from Soren Kierkegaard to David Foster Wallace.
Still, I marveled at how God used the time, not just in the lives of campers but also in my own life. The thirteen-hour drive home was a worshipful experience—which is saying something.
Cedar Canyon is a special place.
It’s beautiful, set near the Black Hills of South Dakota. And the Wesleyan camps there are planned and led by some of the most dedicated and enjoyable youth workers I’ve ever met. The music was phenomenal and the college teams served admirably.
On many nights, leaders worked till wee hours of the morning prepping for the next day’s activities—e.g., packing pantyhose as powdered “paint bombs” to be used at Rec. time (just like the early church).
I mention all this because I sometimes hear church leaders talk about moving away from camps as a way to engage young people. I get it. They can be a ton of work. Some “boutique camps” are so expensive that one practically needs a FAFSA or a trust fund to attend. And it is often alleged that such experiences trade on emotionalism, a suggestive state, and a lack of sleep to “manufacture” conversions. That happens.
But it’s not what I saw last week.
What I saw was a group of counselors, youth pastors, and staff that genuinely care about young people, and each other. For days on end they planned, prayed, and worked their butts off to create an environment that was safe, fun, and spiritually rich.
As always, the results are up to God. Yet it was humbling to watch young people come forward to trust Christ, pray for one another, and sign their names on giant boxes to signify a call to ministry.
God used our week, and I was thrilled to be part of it.
Here’s a video that only covers Tuesday!
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