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Making the “camp high” last all year long

Almost every camp, missions trip and student conference lends itself to the “spiritual high” that is both incredible and frustrating at the same time: incredible because it proves that intimacy with the Lord is possible, but frustrating because of the impending crash a week after the event. What causes the high and how can we help our teens maintain it throughout the school year?

Here’s the scenario: a teen goes to camp where, for an entire week, he is focused on the Lord and the things of God. Or, a teen goes on a missions trip and does nothing but serve the Lord, share Him with others, and spend time in the Word. Or, he spends a weekend at a student conference where he worships, prays and listens to the Holy Spirit’s conviction for two days straight. God honors that. What would you expect to happen? It’s no wonder their relationship with Christ feels alive and real at those times — because it is!

The problem is that a few days later the teens stop doing the things with God that led them to that sense of awe and spiritual passion. They trade their conversations with God for conversations with the cell phone, read Facebook instead of scripture, ignore the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and stop sharing Him with those around them. And then we, as youth workers, blame the camp or conference for setting up our kids for the spiritual crash. The crash isn’t their fault. In fact, the spiritual high isn’t their fault either! No one needs to spend thousands of dollars for a missions trip or a week at camp in order to attain the “camp high.” It comes from devoting time to the relationship and doing the things He commands, just like they did at camp, missions trip or conference.

On my youth group’s missions trip to Belize last month, we started every morning at 6:45 AM with a brief devotional together and then sent everyone off for an hour to spend personal quiet time with the Lord in prayer and in His Word. Most of them had never spent an whole hour in the Word before, so it started as a stretching experience, but by the end of our two weeks in Belize, most of the teens agreed that it was the foundation on which they based the rest of their day. You can imagine my excitement when we returned home and weeks later parents started reporting to me that they’d wake up early and find their teenager sitting quietly on the couch reading scripture. The “missions trip high” continues for some of them!

Revelation 2:5 says, “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (NIV). Encourage your teens to consider the conditions that surrounded their best times with the Lord. Encourage your teens to stick with it, to change the “routine” to include the Lord in everything they say, do, and think. Their relationship with the Lord that feels so alive at the end of camp doesn’t have to end a week later.

The PDF below is a handout I received back in Bible college that literal changed the way I view my relationship with God. The ritual transformed into a relationship. I wrote about that experience back in 2006 and encourage you to read it. It may be a completely different approach to your intimacy with Christ than you’ve ever considered before, but years later I can say that it’s absolutely what a relationship with the Lord is all about.

PDF iconTen questions to ask when your spiritual life is dull and dry

Also, here’s a good video from LifeChurch.tv’s youth ministry along with a small group discussion guide on this very topic (for FREE!). As the summer ends and the school year starts, use it to talk with your kids about how the “camp high” can last all year long.

Fully Devoted video and small group discussion guide


Posted on August 11, 2008

  • As someone who spent his entire summer speaking at camps I appreciate this post. I’ve read too many blog posts and articles that discuss the negative side of camps and put all the blame of “the fire going out” on the camps. Ultimately it’s our job as youth pastors and youth leaders to encourage and equip our teens to grow deep in their faith. Camps, conferences, and retreats are tools just like anything else we use. But nothing will ever replace real deep discipleship.

  • @ Brian: Yeah, it’s totally not camps’ fault. If anything, they show kids that a relationship with God is possible! The responsibility to continue investing into that relationship falls on the student. If they stop investing into it, guess what happens? lol It’s not rocket science.

  • lol, you got it. Thanks man. We’re praying for your ministry.

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  • I also think it helps to note that a spiritual high does not equal an emotional high. I imagine that one of the main reasons people can get discouraged after a camp or conference experience is because they don’t FEEL close to God anymore. That’s why spiritual disciplines, like you say, are so great, because they help people through the hard times and the easy times. I think most spiritual growth happens in the valleys, not the mountaintops.

    This post comes at a great time. I’m in that post-camp twilight in between the end of camp and that ever famous Baptist tradition of a “camp reflection service.” This will be a great aid for that. :)

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