One of the foundational events of our Hillsong Youth Ministry are our annual Summer Camps. They create an environment where our young people can disconnect from the routine and pressures of everyday life, and clearly hear personally from God. We love how these camps set us up for where God wants to take us collectively in the next season.
Here are four keys we’ve learned when it comes to running successful Summer Camps.
1. Safety first, last and always.
Safety has to be a top priority when it comes to Summer Camps. You may have prepared the most epic praise and worship, preach the most amazing messages and have the most exciting games planned, however if the students aren’t in a safe environment it could all be ruined.
When it comes to safety there’s so many aspects that need to be considered including:
- Assess the potential risks of any games or activities.
- Are students bringing the appropriate items to the camp?
- Ensure all leaders and volunteers are approved to be working with children and have had a pastoral interview.
- Do you require paid security onsite?
You can never be too safety conscious when it comes to Summer Camps. However the important thing to note is that it doesn’t have to reduce the fun, but actually allows the students to be comfortable and free throughout the event.
2. Intentional programming.
Every aspect of your Summer Camp schedule and program is intentional and forms a journey we’re taking our young people on.
For example, we prioritize discipleship within small groups after breakfast everyday. This is where students can meet up, pray, read the Bible and chat about what God is doing in them during camp. We do this because for some, reading the Bible is a foreign concept to them, and by having small group time we can model patterns we’d encourage them to continue after camp.
“Tribal Challenges” is another example – it’s not just done as a time-filler before the “spiritual” segment of the service begins – but it’s a way for us to get students connected to a family, to loosen up, have a laugh, either wake them up in the morning or burn off some energy at night, with the goal that when it comes time to worship and engage with the Word, their protective walls inside begin to come down.
Although having a good schedule and structure is critical, don’t become so rigid that you haven’t left room and flexibility for what God wants to do in open hearts.
3. Get the balance right.
Summer Camp is not just about worshipping, listening to preaching and then reading the Bible non-stop for five days. Neither is it about babysitting young people and just playing games for an entire week. There needs to be a balance between having fun, but also centering it all around Jesus.
In our youth ministry, we always try and incorporate the three F’s: Family, Fun and Fed (spiritually, not just the belly). It’s important to have a laugh and to play games and to hang out with each other, but it’s also important to be preaching the word of God, to be praying for one another, and to be prophesying into each other’s potential. That is often many of our young people’s highlights and our meetings run long into the night.
4. Hook the parents too.
Finally, if you don’t have the parents, you won’t have the students. It’s so important to be building relationships with parents throughout the year to prepare for a successful Summer Camp. They need to be able to trust the youth leaders: their organisation, integrity and vision. Is Summer Camp going to be a safe place to send their kids, where they will grow spiritually and ultimately come back with their lives changed. Often it’s the parents who pay for, pack and drop off their kids so don’t forget to engage them throughout your campaign.
This thought was shared during a webinar entitled ‘Youth Summer Camps’ hosted by Sam Fagan and the Hillsong Youth team during Online Open Week in February 2017. Online Open Week is your opportunity to receive impartation and training direct from the Hillsong team through live webinars.
If you would like to watch the full recording or find out more about future events from the Hillsong Leadership Network, click below.