Many who come from across the country and around the world to serve at one of our youth camps are quickly reminded that camp is not a vacation.
It always sounds great at the beginning—help out the youth, get a little sun, meet some new people. And then, upon arrival, staff members are handed a housing assignment and welcomed with a mop, a broom, and various other cleaning supplies. (Just like at every other modern vacation resort, I’m sure…)
When your first day serving finally ends, your head hits the pillow and you stare at the bunk above you. You’ve stopped sweating—perhaps only for a few moments, but just long enough to ask yourself, “What exactly did I sign up for?”
Of course, the short answer is, “Living Youth Camp.” However, that brief answer is not nearly enough to convey the wonderful purpose behind the willingness of so many Church members to sacrifice their time and serve our youth!
A Mission That Includes Our Children
God’s people understand the need to dedicate themselves to preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the whole world. When Jesus Christ laid the foundation of the Church of God, He outlined our mission and our life’s work. We are told to make disciples of all the nations, to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, to teach them to observe His commands, and to preach repentance and remission of sins in His name (Matthew 28:19–20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47).
Afterward, through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit during that year’s Feast of Pentecost, the New Testament Church was formally inaugurated, determined to carry to all people throughout the world the good news of God’s way and His Kingdom. And our youth in the Church are certainly included as “prospective members” to be reached by this great mission!
In 1 Corinthians 7:14, God reveals that our children are deemed holy due to the believing faith of one or both of their parents. This special blessing places on us a special responsibility toward them. We know from many examples in the Bible that only God can make something holy. From Moses’ taking off his sandals on holy ground (Exodus 3:5) to the portion of time made holy for the Sabbath (Exodus 20:11), it is the will and presence of God that makes something holy.
As such, it is God’s presence with the youth of the Church that makes them holy. Although not yet dwelling in them, God’s Holy Spirit is certainly with them (cf. John 14:17). They are sanctified and set apart, with a unique blessing of opportunity. They have received a special calling to God’s way of life and an understanding of the truth of the ultimate change that is coming to this world. In turn, it is our awesome responsibility as adults, parents, and grandparents in the Church to target this group, as well, with the Gospel message, encouraging their continued growth as they journey toward embracing God on their own.
Each of my children, from time to time, will take a turn requesting my undivided attention. They call to me, and I respond—but perhaps I don’t stop what I’m doing and run to them.
A couple months ago, Morgan, my four-year-old daughter, came to me with a question. Walking into my office, she said, “Dad, um, I have a question.” I quickly replied, “Yeah?,” as I continued typing. Taking another step toward me, she tried again, “Daaaaad…” I answered, “Yes, Morgan?”—my eyes still glued to the screen as I pounded away on the keyboard. Walking right up to me, she whispered in my ear, “Daddy.” Once again, trying to finish the thought I was typing, I murmured, “Mmm hmm.”
Then she reached up, put her hands ever so gently on the sides of my face, and turned my head toward hers until our eyes locked, inches apart. In that moment, she had my full, undivided attention totally focused on her monumental question: “Um, what day is it?”
I could only smile.
For many years, the Church has made significant efforts to build on the fundamental principle that we are to serve God’s youth, letting them know they have a place within the Family of God and Body of Christ. Every summer, the Church gives them its undivided attention through camp and other activities. But even more than that, in our local congregations we must continue to encourage and cultivate the growth of these young prospective members who attend with us each week.
In Paul’s letter to Titus, the apostle instructs older members of the Church to admonish and edify younger men and women through their godly examples. We should drive ourselves to take a concentrated interest in our “little brothers and sisters,” whom we hope will one day make their own commitment to God. We should pursue that goal with the same zeal we have for bringing along those prospective members who learn about us from the telecast or on the Internet. It is our joyful obligation to build relationships with and demonstrate our care and support for those whom God has set apart—made holy. With heartfelt attention, let’s continue to set our minds on serving the youth—the future of God’s Church—by sharing with them our hope and passion for God’s Kingdom!