Summer Camp vs. Mission Trip – choose wisely

In meeting with a small group of student leaders recently, one comment in particular caught my attention. One minister declared; “well, we don’t DO summer camp any more, we do mission trip. Our kids would rather do missions than camp and I think that reflects mature ministry.”

For a little while I managed to keep my mouth shut and not respond (but those 15 seconds passed fast). I was hoping he would clarify his position a bit before my mouth opened. Hurry, clarify that with something intelligent. I prayed for strength to hold my tongue, I applied my hand to my mouth in hopes that it would remind my lips to stay neutral. To no avail, as soon as an appropriate pause entered our presence, I shared my thoughts on “mature” ministry. Stepping up to my summer camp soapbox, I began; Friends and neighbors, young and old, stupid and brilliant, egoistic and humble, beginners and veterans – It is of course not an either/or and it is also not about both/and, at least not automatically so. Rather, it is about planning with stinking purpose . . . for the hundredth thousandth time. And let me just add a side bar here for the GenX and Millennials; contray to popular belief, Doug Fields did not come up with the idea of Purpse Driven Ministry. It is not a Saddleback concept. Now for those of you who drink weekly from the faucet of, please put your swords and paintball guns down. Make no mistake about it, I am glad for Doug’s book and resources. PDYM was long overdue in a time period in modern youth ministry when we were becoming overstocked with slackard and disfunctional student ministries. In fact, I built an entire course around it (STM 310) as the primary text book at the Baptist College of Florida. But with all due respect to the decade old Purpose Driven movement, I was taught the concept of planning with purpose and creating mission satements by old professors back in 1981 at New Orleans Seminary. And, I might add, they seem to teach the concept as if it was an old staple of mature ministry even when it was taught to them- way back in the day.

Ok, back to Camp vs. Mission trip – when I hear this idea of missions rather than camp, what I am often times really hearing – besides bla bla bla bla bla bla bla is:
1. I cant afford to do both summer camp and mission trip, so we pick the one that is the easist to garnish financail support from our senior adults and others to pay for most of it.
2. I am not very successful in doing outreach to connect to the lost community, so we just nurture our “core” kids and take them away on mission trips.
3. We dont have any peripheral students or lost kids hanging around our ministry so we dont have much need for a camp where the lost will be saved.
4. It is much easier to herd “core” students than manage a pack of wild students who think, talk and behave like lost students.
5. I am a “Lone Ranger” style of ministry and I simply can not coordinate and direct two major events during the summer and keep our other minsitry programs up to speed.
6. It sounds more spiritual to declare our love, support and intentionality towards the call to mission endeavors.
7. Serving others through missions makes our ministry look more Godly even though many of our students who are passionate about serving in Jesus’ name never apply His purspose for living to their daily life actions.
So when someone says: “we don’t DO camp, we do mission trips” it may not be for one of the reasons above but the real point of position is this: We must plan our ministry caledars with purpose towards accomplishing a comprehensive and balanced ministry which can and perhaps should include two of the most productive ministry initiativfes on the calander – Summer Camp and Mission Trip. In doing so, we help push on towards accomplishing the neccessary balance of Evangelism, Worhsip, Discipleship, Ministry and Fellowship (thanks Doug)