By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
MIDDLETOWN, Md.—Over 80 students made first-time decisions to follow Christ, while scores of others rededicated their lives or surrendered to the call to ministry in what Doug DuBois and others describe as Skycroft Conference Center’s most spiritual student camp yet.
For the second year in a row, Skycroft and the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s Amped Ministry hosted the reCharge camp, for youth who have completed 6th through 12th grades, for three weeks in late June and early July.
“God did amazing things. I’ve never seen anything like it,” shared DuBois, Skycroft’s executive director.
Notably different in this year’s camp were three new opportunities: a leadership lab for student leaders; an intentional building of community within church groups; and an artistic approach to worship. Each of these efforts fell within the scope of Amped Ministry’s five core goals.
Develop student leadership, disciple and equip student leaders within the youth group
DuBois, who also serves as BCM/D’s student evangelism missionary, led a student leadership lab every morning of camp. Nearly 100 students attended the training, which focused on “Leading like Jesus.”
“I didn’t realize how much of a leader I was in my youth group until after I went to that first leadership meeting at 6 in the morning,” Malaney Foster, a senior from Purcellville Church, in Purcellville, Va., said. “I talked with a couple of close friends who were with me that day, and they opened my eyes to all these opportunities I had wasted. I honestly felt ashamed that I had abused and neglected this gift that the Lord had given me.”
Not wanting to waste any future experiences, Foster took her newly acquired training and applied it immediately to a missions experience she had in Asia following the camp.
“I applied the things that you taught us during leadership to this trip: having the heart, head, hands and habits of a leader. I prayed for my teammates, my class, the translators, and any other national that I met by name daily,” she explained. “The difference was this: the level of relationship that I myself personally experienced, and the relationship the team as a whole experienced was deeper than any we’ve ever known. And because of that we had the pleasure of leading a total of 20 Chinese students and translators to Him.”
High school senior Ross Cleveland, from Country & Town Church in Mechanicsburg, Pa., called the leadership lab “a huge eye opener.”
“Basically, it taught me that I don’t have to always be a leader from the front and be the ‘center of attention.’ To be a leader, I must guide other people in the right direction by being in a sense a Shepherd, who leads his sheep from the back,” he said.
“I learned I need to lead my fellow friends from behind to one day have them be a leader for their friends. That whole week I practiced my best on being a stronger leader.”
Cleveland said his experience at reCharge made him do “a 180 with my life.”
He shared, “The overall impact camp had on me this year is the fact that it has made me a different leader. A leader where I lead from behind and not the front. A leader with a new heart for holiness. A leader with new feet that has provided me with direction on my life. And a leader with new eyes on how I look at my future and people that I meet.”
Build strong relationships between the students within the youth group (and between students and the youth pastor)
Grace Schofield, event and program specialist for Amped Ministry, believes other factors also helped make room for God to move in the students’ lives. Rather than separate church groups throughout the camp, reCharge ministers designed events that brought the groups together.
Responding to feedback from earlier camps, the staffers organized activities, such as trust-building exercises, to help build community in each group.
For Dennis Allen, student pastor at Bethany Lane Church in Ellicott City, Md., that made all the difference.
After 15 years of camp, he had this to say: “This was probably one of the best camps I’ve ever gone to.” For him, the “big thing” was the unity he felt among his students, which he attributes to the greater amount of time they spent together.
“Even the shy kids in my group were more engaged because they already knew their fellow students,” he said. “It was really cool to see our kids rally for one another.”
The leadership lab also indirectly challenged Allen.
“I’ve never done a lot with student leadership before,” he admitted, noting that a handful of his kids attended the early morning sessions. “But I can’t not do it now. Doug really gave them good vision and set them on a great path.”
Since the camp, the students at Bethany Lane have developed a “Buddy Ministry,” which pairs upperclassmen with new sixth graders joining the youth group for the first time.
At the students’ request, students now remain longer in the same small groups (for at least a month) before mixing into new groups, allowing for more accountability and relationship building. At the same time, the students are motivated to break up cliques within the youth group.
“It was clear that God wanted these changes,” Allen said. “This camp is something we will look back on and say that God started something big.”
Encourage personal responsibility in discovering and accepting individual callings and purposes for the Kingdom
Schofield also credits the spiritual climate to the worship team from Liberty University and to the campus pastor, Jeff Warren from Shreveport, La., who didn’t sugarcoat the truth.
“They were very unashamed about sharing the Gospel,” she said, a fact that reverberated throughout the camps.
To aid the students in worship, two artists—one who tended toward more abstract art and the other who painted more realistic scenes—painted while Warren preached.
The paintings were then placed in the Dining Hall in a silent auction with all proceeds to go to mission projects in Guatemala and downtown Frederick, Md.
“It was very cool to see the kids, who are visual learners, stay focused on the paintings,” Schofield said.
About the paintings, it wasn’t unusual to hear the students say, “I have to have this painting because it spoke to me,” she added.
Altogether, the youth groups raised $9,731.57 for the missions projects.
Allen said his youth were “fixated on the painting” related to the story of Noah. They raised nearly $400 to purchase the painting, which now resides in their church foyer.
But it was more than the art that spoke to the kids’ hearts. In Deep Questions sessions, students had great discussions that often spilled over into their free time.
DuBois shared how a student approached a staff member walking across the gym during free time. “I’d like to accept Christ,” the student said.
“No one had preached; this wasn’t a time of worship. This was free time!” DuBois said in awe.
Bible studies were also divided by age and gender, which allowed for deeper conversations as well.
“Everything that we did was very intentional,” Schofield said. “It was just a different way to operate camp.”
Registration is already available for next year’s reCharge camps, which are scheduled for June 17-22, June 24-29 and July 1-6, 2012.
Amped Ministry is also taking reservations for the reBOOT 2011 annual winter retreat, which will be held Dec. 2-4. The cost is $65 per person ($25 deposit will hold space). You may now register online at http://ampedministry.org.