I remember the first time I attended camp. I was 14 years old and a brand-new believer. I was hesitant, but a few of our college girls convinced me to go. These girls were leaders in our ministry, and if they said camp was awesome, then I trusted them. It was one of the most pivotal experiences in my walk with the Lord. It wasn’t the endless ice cream that reeled me in. (IYKYK!) It wasn’t the messy games or obstacle courses. It wasn’t even the friendships I made there. What impacted me most was the realization that I could walk in deeper relationship with the Lord all year—one that survives hills and valleys. It was there on a muggy, mosquito-ridden campus in Arkansas that I realized walking with Jesus happens daily. It was there I invited the Lord to consume my entire heart.
Camp is the pinnacle of summer for most student ministries, and it is because we all know its value. My husband served as a student minister for over 18 years, and we witnessed many students come to know Jesus in a real way through camp ministry. We saw students surrender to ministry and missions, form godly community, and fall in love with the Lord. But we also saw many of our students fall into the trap of the infamous “camp high.”
Haven’t you seen this as well? Maybe we have all even experienced it to some degree. Camp is unique in that we have the opportunity to whisk our girls away from their environments—away from phones, social media, toxic relationships, busyness. It is amazing what happens when they have some separation. Bondage breaks. But our girls return home. And too often, what God spoke to them at camp fades into the noise. It can be extremely disheartening. Camp is an incredible tool, but it isn’t a magic fix. We must show our girls how to “tend the fire” once they are home.
We can take several steps to prepare our girls to have a genuine experience at camp. It is up to us to model devotion! The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize the importance of discipline. As ministry leaders, I am sure we can all admit there are days we don’t feel like seeking. Apathy is a real beast, and busyness is a thief. But by God’s grace we can show them that, like any other relationship, it will require commitment and discipline. We want to model the reward of knowing Jesus on a deeper level, one that transcends emotion.
There are several areas in which we can model devotion:
1. Studying God’s Word
Our girls are immersed in God’s Word while at camp, but it can be a missing factor throughout the year. They attempt to spiritually survive without any nourishment, without a sword for battle. During the year, we can encourage them with biblical truth, lead them in studying it together, and hold them accountable. As we immerse ourselves in the Word consistently, we can then pour truth into our girls and teach them how to study God’s Word. And when they see that the Word is important to us, that it’s our daily bread, then they’ll follow our lead. If we aren’t modeling this for them, they’ll follow our lead there as well. May we always lead them to truth. May we show them what it means to live “on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3, CSB).
Some of our girls experience God’s presence for the first time while at camp. But it can easily become centered on emotion, making an idol out of feeling. Emotion certainly plays an important role as we respond to the Lord, but experiencing the Lord doesn’t rely on our emotions. When Jesus meets with a Samaritan woman, He explains that a time is coming when God’s presence will not be confined to one location- the temple. He explains that “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24, CSB). Worship is a bowing of our hearts before the Father. It’s a lifestyle, not confined to song or service. While our girls may first experience it more deeply at camp, we can model a lifestyle of worship and surrender in front of them.
Scripture is clear on the importance of community (Heb. 10:24-25). Relationships resulting from camp can help hold our girls accountable. As leaders, we can foster an environment that keeps them plugged in to the local church. They may depend on us for a while to spur them on. This may involve planning consistent opportunities for them to be together outside of regular church activities. Our girls need community, and so do we. They need godly friendships, and so do we. Seeing our own commitment to the body of Christ can do more to encourage their commitment than we will ever know.
Our girls need to see us persevere under pressure. Too often, our consistency relies on circumstances, but the Lord never changes. His character is steady. He is kind, and good, and holy. And He calls us to endure because He endured. Our girls need to see us struggle. As we encounter hardships, trials, grief, or busyness, we can demonstrate unwavering devotion and perseverance. James encourages believers to “consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4, CSB). What an incredible opportunity we have to grow in our own faith as we model true endurance before our girls.
I will always be grateful for camp. I would not be where I am in my walk with Jesus had I not stepped off a stinky church bus in northern Arkansas, completely unaware of how much God wanted to meet with me. And He did. He took my hand and showed me more of Himself. He showed me that I could experience Him deeply at camp but even more so at home. This is what we want for our girls. For them to know Jesus. To love Him. To be consumed by Him. Let’s model it and watch them follow our lead!
Alecia Bryant lives in Louisiana with her husband, Chris, and their two children, Parker (8) and Avery (5). She loves studying God’s Word, writing, and leading worship. Alecia has a passion for discipleship and believes God’s Word is a life-changing gift. She serves alongside her husband, the Discipleship Pastor at their church. In her free time, she is likely hunting down her next favorite Mexican restaurant or curled up on the couch with her kids.