Winter can often be a draining, depressing, and seasonally dark time. Heap on top of that the stresses that can come from leading a youth ministry, and you are likely to be overwhelmed. Our students are not impervious to the same effects this season has on us. For them, the post-Christmas winter season can be full of busy school schedules, mid-terms, and exams, which often leads to increased anxiety in students.
As believers, it is imperative for us to have an oasis—a place we can go to be revitalized and encouraged. It is also important that this oasis is a safe place unsaved students are comfortable attending.
During the winter months, Word of Life hosts student weekend retreats in New York (Snowcamp), Florida (Pursuit Camp), and Ohio (Intersect). These winter camps meet the needs of (and re-energizes) three distinct groups of people: unsaved students, saved students, and youth leaders. Here are three reasons why you should consider winter camp for your youth ministry.
1. Winter Camp Is a Great Opportunity to Evangelize the Lost
When it comes to evangelism, Word of Life’s winter camps are an anomaly. Evangelism is normally thought of as going out to the unsaved, whereas with winter camp, the unsaved come to us.
Hundreds of students, a sizable portion of whom do not know Jesus, show up to camp and have the opportunity to respond to the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. The students are met right where they are, as conversations take place not only after messages, but also during the fun activities throughout the weekend. Winter camp counselors are intentional in turning everyday conversations toward the gospel as they build authentic relationships with students.
Time and time again, we have seen God work through winter camp to change lives; “dry bones” who show up on our campus respond to the gospel and leave in newness of life.
2. Winter Camp Challenges the Believers in Your Ministry To Grow
Many campers who attend winter camp already have a relationship with Christ. This group of campers can be divided into two smaller groups—those who are complacent and stagnant in their walk with the Lord, and those who are growing in their faith. The winter camp program is designed to biblically instruct and challenge these two subgroups of students.
For the believer who is stagnant in his or her faith, there are various breakout sessions that target this issue. These sessions are oftentimes accompanied by real testimonies from Word of Life Bible Institute students who are not much older than the camper attending. An intense 44-hour camp can often be a breaking point for this complacent Christian, as he or she is challenged by God’s Word and the impactful examples of counselors living consistently for Christ.
For the young believer who is growing in their walk with the Lord, their disciplines in Christian living are often sharpened by a brief time of refreshment in the oasis. The biblical content offered to them is helpful in an array of daily issues they may face. Breakout sessions cover topics such as choosing godly friends, trusting God’s Word, how to spend time in Scripture, and how to honor the Lord through our use of media (even video games)! These students will emerge as leaders in your youth group, broadening your impact as they reach out to their friends and share what they learned through camp.
3. Winter Camp Will Create More Opportunities for You to Connect with Your Students
Proverbs 27:23 (NASB) says: “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.” What I found most helpful in bringing my students to camp was clearly identifying their spiritual condition as I partnered with their camp counselors. Nobody’s eternity should be a guessing game. Camp gave me the opportunity to evaluate where each student was spiritually, and it allowed me to use breakout sessions, gospel messages, and dedications as launch points for future ministry back home.
For the youth leader on the frontlines during the other 363 days of the year, winter camp provides opportunities to be refreshed and enjoy the presence of other leaders from across the country who are ministering with you side-by-side. Don’t forget to take the load off while you’re there. Grab a hot chocolate, and hit the tube hill!
For more information on the winter camps offered by Word of Life check out the links below:
Snowcamp (New York)— wol.is/snowcamp
Pursuit Camp (Florida)— wol.is/pursuit
Intersect Camp (Ohio)— wol.is/intersect
Jordan Ross is the Assistant Ministries Coordinator at Word of Life Bible Institute. He served in camp ministry overseas with Word of Life Brazil and now lives in Schroon Lake with his wife, Cindy, and daughter, Paisley. He also served as a youth pastor at his home church in Massachusetts before returning to Word of Life.