Youth Camp

I am spending the week with our student ministry at Ridgecrest Baptist Church at Laguna Beach Christian Retreat near Panama City Beach, FL. I have a long history with this place. We started coming here when I was in 8th grade, which would have been about 1986. At the time my world knew the mullet, the rise of Andre Agassi, Duran Duran, and the air brush T-shirt. Somehow the air brush T-shirt has survived. Air brush is to Panama City what taffy is to Gatlinburg. Both are useless and in bad taste, but when you are there you just have to have one.

Now I am 38 and this is about trip 50 to Laguna for me. As a youth pastor I brought groups here. As a pastor I have brought a number of groups here. For the last five years I have been the camp preacher for my friend Chris' youth group (he too survived the mullet era). Preaching for Chris' youth camp is surreal for me. Yet this youth camp is even more so. This is the first camp in which my daughter is a part of the group. Yet another sign that Jr. High is only a few weeks away for her. I hated Jr. High in 1986, I still hate it in 2011. I am afraid it will eat my daughter.

Teenagers have always been in survival mode. You just want to make it from 12 to 20 without too many guilty memories, too many scars, and some semblance of an ego left at the other end. Youth camp is designed to help a kid build some buttresses to strengthen his soul for the journey through puberty. Teenagers are raw and unfiltered which makes the experience of preaching to them enjoyable for me. They hold nothing back. They react to God's Word the way it was designed, with reckless abandon, full throttle, whole soul. Adults are guarded, jaded, skeptical, and suffering from burnout. Adults are exiles from Neverland. They have lost their imagination and sense of adventure. Adults come to church service in suit and tie, dress and high heels, masks and false ID. Teenagers come to service at youth camp without showers, they stink, and they say dumb things, but they are unguarded. They don't even know how to spell skeptic. For adults the Word of God is an option. It takes years to help them trust it. For teenagers the Word of God is what it is, they are what they are, here we go. That's why a week with students can make a great deal of difference.

Pop culture has always been the vulture of the teenage soul. I realize that more now at 38 than I did in 1986. At 13 you are still on the front end of the Book of Proverbs, "my son." The Word of God is like a father for the soul. It is a conversation for the listening ear, all of life is in front of you, but be careful to choose your path, your friends, your mate, and your character wisely. Pop culture invites us to the folly, to wreck the soul, to crash and burn, and arrive in adulthood with no hope, no morals, and no convictions. Since 1986 there have been a lot of us that have gone to youth camp, reacted to the Word at the time with reckless abandon, but since that time believed the siren song of Pop Culture. We have crashed into the shore and have long since abandoned our souls. At some point along with way we forgot all the things they taught us at youth camp. We forsook the things we resolved to do in Jesus' name and we were eaten alive.

Jesus said that we are to receive the Kingdom of Heaven like a child. You hear it and you just do it. Fortunately for me, almost every year since 1986 I have had this anchor for the soul called youth camp. Year after year it reminds me of the power of the gospel. Youth camp reminds me of the potential of the human soul when it reconnects with God. I need the wisdom of 38 way more than I needed the mullet of '86, but I need the passion of '86 way more than I need the jadedness of 38. Youth camp reminds me how to be curious, hungry, and passionate. I love coming here and doing this. Maybe we all need youth camp. A week to revisit the gospel, to re-explore potential, to sit and chat with wisdom.

I love youth camp.


Popular Posts