In many LCA districts around the nation mid-year Christian Life Weeks have begun or are about to, involving many campers, leaders and volunteers. As we've travelled around Australia to different congregations and certainly in our own experiences mentoring the young people in our congregations, often there is a “what happens after camp?” question.
Here are some tips that you may find helpful.
A connection must be made with these young people to show them that as their church family you care about them and that their journey is important to you. Research shows us that young people are looking for authentic and caring relationships. You will be amazed at how this intentional communication will impact your congregation as your young people feel valued. Give the young people an opportunity to reflect and share their experiences.
Personal testimonies are powerful
Encourage the young people to share about their experience at camp, what they learnt, and the things that impacted them the most. Help them to reflect and write down these things and share these in a space provided during a worship service, at a youth event or a special celebration meal.
Some of the young people that attended camp from your area may not be regularly involved in a faith community. Host a celebration meal for young people, parents, key leaders and mentors of your congregation. Include a time where they can share. This is a great way to include those on the ‘outer’ and encourage relationships and connections.
Allow the young people to create something to show their experience at camp. Photos, PowerPoint or videos can be used to share at different church events. Ask them what they want to create to share.
Camp can often lead to a time of spiritual growth; this is an important time to offer opportunities and support to ensure this growth can continue. This is where congregations have the perfect opportunity to connect with young people and help them on their walk. Find people within your congregation who can support this and intentionally find ways to mentor and care.
Encourage Bible studies and devotions
We know that regular time in God’s word encourages us in our walk. Often it is hard to know where to start. Help young people by providing an appropriate study resource and encourage them to identify time during the week that they could spend time learning more about their God their Father.
Is it possible to offer a small group for the young people to continue their walk together? It can be for a set amount of time of six weeks with the option of continuing if the group wishes to. At this time provide tools for their toolkit to ensure this new growth continues as they remain connected to the vine. Encourage conversations about walking with faith in every area of their lives and that God isn’t just for Sunday mornings.
Help them to identify their gifts and talents
Have intentional conversations with the young people to find out how they can use their newfound enthusiasm to encourage and empower their church family. (See the Grow Ministries article – ‘How to encourage gifts and talents’ for ideas about this.)
Connections at church
A response that we often hear after camp is that “my church is nothing like camp”. To young people, this is a real concern that needs to be recognised. Rather than looking at this as a negative or criticism, as leaders, we can encourage our young people to share their thoughts and ideas and seek ways that help them to feel more connected.
We understand that not every congregation has the resources to cater to every different style of worship for each individual. It is important, however, that the needs of the young people are listened to and provisions made in our Sunday services that allow them to participate in a style that connects directly to them. This allows us to move into a more intergenerational style of ministry where all ages and stages are valued.
This could include;
- encouraging them to participant in the worship band at church.
- finding YouTube clips of songs that they connect to.
- creating opportunities for testimonies and interaction within the service.