This week, I’m preparing to leave for kid’s camp.
I’ve got drinks ready, bags to be packed and four days blocked out of my schedule. Why would I do a trip after already doing a week of youth camp and week-long mission trip? Honestly, kid’s camp is one of my favorite trips of the year.
The younger camp lasts just four days. It is full of high energy and excitement. Bed time is earlier and elementary kids go to bed on time. There is very little “camp romance.” Compared to the stress of youth camp, kid’s camp is a breeze.
It may be a lighter trip, but it’s not less important.
Kid’s camp is a vital cog in my youth ministry. At kid’s camp, I start forming relationships with students I will see in my ministry in a couple of years. I’m also starting to earn the trust of parents and grandparents as I shepherd their children for the few days of camp. That pays dividends when little Johnny is 14, an eighth grader and I want to take him to a homeless shelter to serve.
Building relationships with elementary students has a positive impact on your youth ministry. As students become comfortable with you, it lessens the fear of moving up to youth ministry. As parents get to know you, they’re more apt to volunteer as chaperones and host homes.
Kid’s camp may be the most important non-youth ministry event I participate in all year. I get to share Christ with younger students while preparing them to enter youth ministry in just a few years. We make lasting memories that only strengthens our bonds. I form relationships that earn the right to delve deeper into their lives as they reach their teenage years.
Plus it sows the seeds of future youth camps and mission trips. I want them in the habit of reserving time in the summer for youth related activities.
I know some youth pastors lament spending time with elementary students. I know others that prefer to leave that stuff to the children’s minister or director. Let me encourage you to eschew that point of view. Instead, embrace opportunities to spend time with younger students. These are the future youth of your church and your ministry. Taking three or four days out of your calendar to attend kid’s camp is a small sacrifice for the groundwork you will lay for the future of your ministry.
So go ahead, sign up for kids camp. Those kids need a chaperone. You need to build relationships. Your youth ministry will prosper as a result.
Who knows, you might even see the future leaders of your group?