I am on a few of the youthpastor groups on facebook. I engage in youth pastors only and YouthPastor.com. I really enjoy engaging with other student pastors and leaders about student ministry and how to effectively minister to students. There is a lot of good stuff in these groups. If you are a student ministry leader and not in one of these groups, let me encourage you to join the groups and then join the discussions! I am learning a whole lot since engaging in these groups.
Recently, a conversation in the group was about conferences and taking students to conferences. Many of the youth leaders (myself included) shared concerns of how the students make changes and then do not keep them. This happens with many conferences and camps. We get away at a conference, and then we get back to reality and back into our comfort zone, we fail again to keep our commitments to the Lord. So, should we take our students to these camps/conferences? I say emphatically YES! Here are a few thoughts on why I think it is important
- It is not the conference or your fault that your students struggle with keeping their commitments after camp or a youth conference. This is what gets me. Some conferences do everything right at the conference, but it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to keep this decision.
- Many conferences/camps put your students in a position for genuine life change to take place. Why do you take students to these places? You want to see them come back different when they left, right? This is my prayer? I want students to come to know Jesus for the first time! I want the students who are already saved to learn to have a deeper relationship with Jesus than when they left.
- It pulls students directly out of their comfort zone which is great. I love to see students at camp come uncomfortable and leave comfortable. What do I mean by this? The uncomfortable students are normally those students who are not doing well in their relationship with Jesus. The reason that they are uncomfortable is because they deep down do not feel comfortable around the whole church and worship setting. When they leave comfortable, it means that they feel more comfortable with this type of setting. Something spiritual has clicked for them.
- It teaches them worship. Have you ever noticed by the end of the week, some students are actually throwing a hand up for worship, praying before the service, praying with other students, or engaging in the song service. At the beginning of the week, many of these things are not happening, but by the end of the week, hopefully your students have learned something about worship.
I hope that reasons are enough for you to continue taking your students to conferences and camps that will challenge them in their walk with Jesus. I have been praying over how to have students continue with their decisions long-term, and here is something that I think will help you. Assign an accountability partner to that specific student on what they made a decision on. This will need to be a week to week accountability assignment. So, if you have 30 students, assign each one of them an accountability partner. Some of your leaders might need two partners, but do not give leaders too many students, because that would be tough to keep them on a weekly accountability program. I am instituting this, and stoked about seeing God use this to better effectively see our students make long healthy decisions with their relationship with Jesus.
What do you do to help students keep their decisions from camps and conferences that you take them too?