I don't do youth camps. As I have explained to countless people, I am not called to youth ministry and clearly God has not equipped me for anything of the sort. My specialty is adult ministry. I tend to be terrified of anyone under twenty. I think it has to do with the fact that I know young people can see right through me, down to my very soul, and are unknowingly aware of every fear and insecurity I possess.
There is this other thing as well: To say I am a reserved person is about as big an understatement as you can get away with without inciting laughter. If you have ever even peaked into a youth camp, reserved is not a word that you would tend to use unless you were saying something like, "the area in the back of the room is reserved for people who are too reserved to worship like everyone else." Youth worship with such reckless abandon that it makes a bookish introvert like me run for cover faster than a turtle in a mosh pit.
So, how I found myself this weekend at my second youth camp is a mystery of God I cannot quite explain but one I attribute a little to the influence of my friends Rusty Freeman and Ryan Barnett. The odd thing is that Rusty and Ryan know me pretty well so there is a mystery in why they would think I would have any chance of adding something to the life of these kids.
At my first camp this past winter, I did my best to fit in, preach well, not get hurt and not look like an old man who had, in senile confusion, wandered into the wrong camp. And all in all, things went pretty well. But this time, I made a different choice. If I was going to do this, I had to do this. I had to believe there was some reason that I had been asked, some reason that God had clearly called me to say yes, some reason I was there. So this time, I decided to enter into the time, not carefully, but with as much reckless abandon as the kids I would be worshipping with. This is a lot easier with mentors to look to. My friend Mark Swayze and his band were leading the music and if anyone knows how to lead worship with reckless abandon it's Mark. Rusty also has somehow maintained the ability to worship with the same energy as the kids year after a year.
They both know something really important - they are leaders and people are looking at them and to them. Some kids at camp need no help getting into the spirit of worship. But there are always others, especially kids who were born with that same "I'm more comfortable reading in my room" personality that I was. They will follow the lowest energy person in the room. It is a shame if it is me.
So this time I made a different choice. I decided from the first night to sing, dance, pray, kneel, forget that anyone was watching me but God. I decided when I stood up to speak, I would say what was on my heart even if it wasn't in my notes. I decided I wouldn't vet every word to make sure that it was perfectly theologically astute. I decided to share stories that my congregations haven't been allowed to hear. I poured out so much that, when I was done, my throat hurt, my head hurt, my back hurt and I felt spent.
I don't keep a ranking but this was clearly in the top five of the most amazing spiritual experiences of my Christian journey - Because I stepped out and let go.
On the last night of the camp a young girl came forward to pray with me. In tears she thanked God for bringing her to the camp and bringing me to the camp. She then repeated to me, clearly, the themes that ran through all of my messages and related them to the struggles she faced in her life. And then we prayed together. That alone was worth the whole thing.
I don't do youth camps. As I have explained to countless people, I am not called to youth ministry and clearly God has not equipped me for anything of the sort.
Okay, well maybe.
What does this look like for you in your life and ministry?
What are you afraid of?
What is outside of your comfort zone?
What might you need to let go of to serve in a way that God is calling you?
Who is watching you?
Is there anything you are doing that might be getting in their way?
What might God be calling you to?
Who might God be calling you to be?
See you at camp.