Camp Was Awesome! But Why Didn’t it Last?

It’s summer, so that means many student pastors are taking their students to camp. By this point in the summer many of you have already made that trip and are experiencing the all too often frustration that happens after camp. Let me try to explain this frustration. You take a handful of your students to camp. Some of them are students you know desperately need Jesus and need to change the way they are living. As the week goes on you see a change in them. And then by the end of the week, they are crying, throwing a stick in the fire, and proclaiming that they are going back home to live a totally different life. You, as the student pastor, cannot be more excited. You go back home with the hopes of seeing that students live for Jesus. But a few weeks after camp you notice that the student is right back to where they were before camp. It seems as though the experience and decision they made at camp doesn’t exist. So your frustrated, wondering what you can do as a student pastor.

I’m sure many student pastors have experienced something like this. I know I have and even experienced it this summer with some of my students. So what do you do when you find yourself frustrated because it seems the change you saw in students at camp didn’t last past the bus ride home? Here are a few things you need to remember if you find yourself in that spot:

1. Remember the growth and change in students is a process. Don’t forget the important doctrine of sanctification. As Christians, we don’t change overnight. Becoming more like Jesus is a life time journey and your students are on that journey. Remember that the student who went to camp, made many decisions, but came back the same way they were before, is on the road of becoming like Jesus. This will take their whole life. So don’t get frustrated when you don’t seem to see the change. Realize camp is just a stepping stone for them to become like Jesus, it was not the “quick fix.”

2. They may need encouragement. Many students don’t see lasting change in their life because they don’t get the encouragement they need. They often time comes back to friends and maybe even families that don’t follow Christ. Make sure the student that went to camp and made decisions gets plugged into your ministry, if they are not already. Get them in a small group where they can be encouraged by other students and Godly adults. Also, allow them to give a testimony of what God did at camp to the whole church. I’m a big fan of this idea because it brings accountability as well as encouragement to the student. Remind them of the decisions they made at camp and encourage them to stick to them.

3. Pray for them. This may seem very elementary, but it’s something we often overlook. Nothing will be better for that student than for you to get on your knees and pray for them. In 1 Thessalonians 1:2, Paul tells the believers he is writing to that he “constantly mentions them in prayer.” Can you say this about the student you’re so frustrated with because they don’t seem to change? God is the one who sanctities them, so spend time praying about them to God.

These are just a few things to remember when your frustrated because the “camp experience didn’t last” with your students. I hope these are an encouragement to you and feel free to share in the comment section below how you feel about this topic.

My friend Josh Evans wrote a great post about why camp still works. Click here to check out that post.

Published by Austin McCann

Austin is the student ministries director at Redemption Chapel in Stow, OH. He has a BA from Piedmont International University and a Master of Arts in Religion with a Christian leadership focus from Liberty University School of Divinity. Austin enjoys reading, writing, playing basketball and golf, and spending time with his family.

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  1. I think part of the disappointment/frustration is our own fault since we build camp up in our own minds to be something that it never can be. We are just as guilty of this as the students are. We expect camp to be that quick fix because we too get caught up in the emotions (at times due to not enough sleep). Perhaps changing our attitude will help us see camp in the proper context. We won’t anticipate it all year, hoping that a miracle will be performed in the lives of those teens on the edge, but will instead look at it as merely a supplement to what we’re already doing. Simply put, we as youth ministers can’t put all our hopes in that one event. As you said, it’s a LONG process.

  2. William,

    Thanks for the great response! You nailed it when you said we may need to change our attitude towards camp as student pastors. As you said, camp should just supplement what God is already doing in our students and our ministry.


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