Written by Chase Snyder:
My favorite thing about camps and retreats is the decisions students make while there. Their excitement for Jesus is so contagious!
Whether it is to surrender to God’s call to do mission work or to follow Jesus more closely or even to accept Jesus for the first time, students make big milestone decisions while at camps.
And it’s no wonder – they get to spend a week free of the distractions that normally draw them away from God! When they make these kinds of decisions, you cheer for them, pray over them, and spend whatever remaining time you have encouraging and discipling them.
But what happens when everyone returns home?
Students return home with new life but walk straight into old settings. The daily schedule is no longer focused on Bible study and community, but sports, family, and friends. The old life is waiting. After a couple weeks, the life change your students experienced seems like only a memory.
So the question then becomes this: Are you prepared to disciple students after they make a decision?
You begged students to attend summer camp because you know the power of camp. (Need help communicating the importance of camp to parents? Check out this article: 7 REASONS YOUR STUDENT SHOULD ATTEND SUMMER CAMP) But now you’re back home too. You’re tired too. You’re back to your old routine, and it isn’t quite as free as a student who is out of school for the summer.
Discipleship is a multilayered process. Each student needs to commit to keeping his or her fire for God going after a summer camp, but part of the responsibility is on the leaders—including you—to disciple students after camp. (Here is an article to help students keep their excitement when they return home from camp: HOW TO STAY EXCITED ABOUT GOD–EVEN WHEN THE RETREAT IS OVER)
5 Ways to Disciple Students After Summer Camp
1) Inform and Involve Parents
Parents should be informed about spiritual decisions made at camp. I encourage students to call their parents while we are at camp, but I also follow up with a call from me to celebrate with them. When we are back in town, I sent a letter to any parent whose student has accepted Jesus. Ultimately, parents are the primary spiritual leaders in their kids’ lives.
[bctt tweet=”It’s part of my job to help empower parents to disciple their kids!” via=”no”]
2) Invite Camp Visitors to Your Small Group
Discipleship happens in groups. It’s likely that summer camp will bring in a good number of visitors who are not already connected to your church or small groups. Ask yourself how you can help a visitor (and his or her family) bridge the gap between summer camp and your small groups. This is a critical step for discipleship.
If the student and his or her family attend a different church, connect with the youth pastor there so they can get plugged in more deeply.
3) Send a Thank You Note to Those Who Attended Camp
The last thing we need to do is stop talking about camp when we return. Now, don’t turn into that “inside joke” guy who alienates other students, but you need to continue to pray for and encourage students when they return home. One way is to send a thank you note to each person who attended. In it share about what you saw God do that week in that person or a way that God impacted you through each individual.
4) Host Easy Summer Hangouts
Everyone limits programming because of the busy summer schedule for adults, but students are bored out of their minds. One reason camp is awesome is the fact that students are able to hang out for an entire week. What cheap, easy, and relation-driven hangouts do you have planned the weeks after camp?
5) Involve Your Other Students
Students need a place to belong. If a student only connects with adult volunteers, they will not last in the student ministry.
[bctt tweet=”You need to be intentional to connect students with each other after camp. ” via=”no”]
Building these friendships is essential. If you took some time to observe the kids during camp, you may have seen friendships developing naturally that you can then encourage when you get back. If you think it will work for your students, encourage them to group up with each other for the purpose of discipleship after camp. Student leadership team members who attend camp can be coached to be in prayer during camp for which visiting or younger students God may be leading them to build a friendship with. The point is this: Get your students on board to help spur spiritual growth.
Don’t miss the opportunities that will come after summer camp to encourage and disciple those students who made decisions while at camp.
Link: Original Article