Friday, May 30, 2008


    What are you doing keeping all those great church camp traditions, games, crafts, projects, theme nights, and creative activities to yourself? Why not share them with the rest of us who are preparing to spend one or more fun-filled weeks at camp this summer? We'd like to hear from you, dear readers, and in return we'd like to put some great youth ministry resources into your hands. To enter our "Rethinking Youth Ministry Summer Camp Contest" simply post a comment to this blog entry sharing your creative church camp idea. Have more than one idea? Great! Each idea you share will be treated as a separate entry in the contest drawing. Provide a link back to this contest on your blog and we'll count that as another chance in the drawing for one of these prize packages:

    Prize Package #1:

    Spontaneous Melodramas 2 by Doug Fields, Laurie Polich, Duffy Robbins

    Branded: Adolescents converting from Consumer Faith by Katherince Turpin

    Prize Package #2:
    Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers by Chap Clark

    Meeting Space ideas for Youth Ministry by Todd Outcalt

    Prize Package 3:
    Presence-Centered Youth Ministry: Guiding Students into Spiritual Formation by Mike King

    Enjoy the Silence: A 30 Day Experiment in Listening by Maggie & Duffy Robbins

    Contest ends midnight Saturday June 7 so post your ideas before then and good luck! Winners (selected randomly using will be announced here on Sunday June 8. Of course, the prizes are nice, but the real goal here is to share the wealth of our creativity with others who are out there in the trenches of youth ministry!


    brantg said...

    1)At my camp we have the youth take turns setting up for and cleaning up after every meal as a way to help out around the camp and learn the importance of serving the needs of others.

    2)Last year we built an outdoor labyrinth using just stones that we found in a nearby creek. The labyrinth became the focus of one of our worship services.

    Anonymous said...

    *Take a day and fast from lunch. During the time you would have had lunch, spend time praying or participating in hands-on activities to help you identify with the hungry. If possible, load up in vans and head to a food pantry or something similar.

    *Celebrate communion every night, utilizing methods from different traditions (tear and dip, wafers and juice, served by several, taken individually, etc.)

    *Make time on the last night of camp where campers can talk to their counselors in private. Many of them have likely been wrestling with lots of stuff during the last 4-5 days of camp, and having a time where they can freely talk with a counselor/youth pastor/etc. is priceless. Usually works well at night just before bed time.

    *Find someone who rents laser tag equipment and play laser tag on designated areas on camp property.

    *Make a prayer walk using tea candles, and line them on both sides of a portion of road at the camp. At night, after the sun has set, send campers down the candle-lit path one at a time, and tell them to stop at a designated spot (at the 'end' and have a staff member there.) Either have light music playing at the ending point, or sing choruses acapella. Some worship stations at the end may help campers stay focused as the others make their way through the walk.

    *Make a mud pit and get muddy! This requires tearing up a section of grass, which is easiest with a backhoe.

    *Do a themed night that comes as a surprise to campers. One camp I worked at did a 50's night, and we transformed the dining hall into a 50's retro diner and played all sorts of old 50's carnival type games.

    *For meal times, treat them as family time -- not mass cafeteria feeding time. Have dishes of food on each table, along with table settings. Pass the food around, instead of lining up to have it dished out.

    *Have folks from various churches in your denomination come on out to share about their journey. As Rob Bell puts it, "In order to know where we're going, we have to know where we've been." Camp is a great place to get familiar with one's roots...and a part of that is hearing about those who have gone before us. Then allow the guests to interact with campers during a meal.

    dsm said...

    The thing that we do at camp to bring community together and simply to create a memory, camp yearbook. On day one we get everyone's picture and then we take pictures all week and even write some basic articles to go along with the theme. We bring them out at our last fun night event which is usually a coffee house environment. They can share info and enjoy their final night together. That is also the only night we do campfire.

    Brian said...

    Hey, Great suggestions everyone. Keep 'em coming! I especially like the suggestion of eating meals "family style" and the idea of making a camp "memory book." We created a labyrinth oursleves last year using biodegradable spray paint on the grass.
    Brian - Rethinking Youth Ministry

    Brian said...

    Nikki shared her idea on our companion post at the Youth Ministry Ideas website (

    "As tradition on the day the youth are to go home we wake early early am and go for a polar bear swim in the pool. It is summer but a non heated pool in the mountians can be pretty chilly.

    Each cabin also create something,plays a song or a skit explaining something they learned while at camp. It can be an amazing time of worship.


    Danny Bradfield said...

    I've been blogging for 3 1/2 years. This year, my newest creative camp idea is to create a blog with a "counselor tip of the day." I started it this week, and will post one tip each day until camp.

    the blog

    Dan Mayes said...

    Last year I created a myspace group for my campers and alerted them to it a few weeks before camp. Campers were able to get on, reconnect, and build relationships before camp even started. The group stayed open for about 6 months after camp. It was really cool to see them logging on later, sharing pics, retelling camp stories, and continuing the camp experience for several months.

    Brian said...

    Wow, Danny! Thanks for sharing the link to your new blog and what a great resource.

    Dan, I love the idea of keeping campers connected before and after camp via an internet group. As you point out, it's also a great way to share photos.

    Another idea I would share: We do some special activities at our evening meals during the week. One night the campers are only allowed to eat with chopsticks (last year we served sphagetti on that night!) and one night we acted out the "Stone Soup" story as the campers help cut up ingredients for a soup we cooked over a campfire.

    Brian said...

    Rosie shared her idea on our companion post at the Youth Ministry Ideas website (

    Every year we have Camps for all Youths in our Region - separated into groups; Senoir Youth Councils (14-30), Junior Youth Councils (7-13), Corps Cadet Retreat (all youths attending this special Course. We have lots of fun- great worships,exporation of new diets and ideas, great lessons to learn,and mostly the blessings of meeting our other brothers and sisters. Many lives are changed when the Youths attend a Youth Council so it is really wise to encourage as many Youths as possible to attend this special events even if they do not happen to be associated with a Youth Group

    Anonymous said...

    man there are some great ideas on here. i love the one about the meals

    i love doing my own retreats and camps (its a sick sick disease i know)

    one thing we did a few years ago was a giant game night. we created a huge slip and slide mat with fruit and chocolate sauce on it and set it up as a relay where the students were having to fill up little dixy cups and take them back to a 2 litter bottle. to spice it up add a fire hose to knock kids off the mat

    as we had the kids doing another relay we then took that mat and created a hill slide that went for about 75 yards down hill into a pool. was pretty fun

    one of the most powerful times i've had at camp with my students is night time encouragements. we had a night where we had our students stand up and say something encouraging to a student and leader. this went on for about two hours one camp...people were full of joy and tears. was awesome (warning has room to backfire if your kids hate one another)

    another is through foot washing. i've done this several ways. my three favorite ways are as follows
    1. you personally wash the feet of the leaders (volunteers) and then they go to the students and wash their feet as you pray over the students

    2. wash about 5 strong teenager leaders feet, while praying over them then you stand and tell them to do the same to others

    3. (mass chaos but beautiful) start with two leaders and two students. wash their feet while speaking encouragement into and over them then let them go and to the same. those that they wash then go and do the same. it becomes a beautiful mess of teenagers and adults washing one another's feet speaking peace, grace, and love into one another. its a humbling thing to have a 13 year old teenage boy untie your shows, take off your socks, and pray over you thanking God for the work you do with his small group.

    i have a few more ideas but i think thats good.

    David and Whitney Scott said...

    One of the best "theme" camps I ever did centered around Jesus as the Lamb of God. Here's the set up...

    On our first night together a local sheep rancher helped with the evening worship talk by educating the kids all about sheep. Everything.

    Beginning that first night, each cabin was in charge of taking care of two lambs for a 12 hour shift, night or day. Lambs were kept (mostly) in a secured pen. From cleaning the pen to watching over the lambs at 3am, all care and attention was given to them. Needless to say, every camper grew attached to these two lambs.

    Finally (and I'm leaving a ton of details out), our Friday night worship service centered around the sacrifices offered to God in O.T. times. Counselors, dressed in O.T. attire, led the campers out to worship area in which a traditional altar was built. One of the lambs was brought out and placed on the altar. As the director directed the campers to bow their heads in preparation for the sacrifice, a shiny knife/sword was pulled out by one of the dressed counselors. When all heads were bowed, the lamb was removed (unharmed!), and a large cross, hidden behind the altar, was raised and placed on the altar. Heads were lifted and the point was made. Powerful, powerful moment!

    Discussion groups formed and you can only imagine the many implications drawn from this experience (for instance, some larger football playing boys described how angry they were when their lamb was placed on the altar and how they were ready to fight the male counselors doing the sacrifice. The obvious reply from a gifted counselor was to ask when was the last time those boys found themselves angry over God's name used in vain, injustice in the world, etc....).

    Again, sorry this was so condensed, but I think you get the general idea.

    Greg Bolt said...

    Silent hike through the woods. We called it the "Quest Walk".

    Open with prayer, walk to a particular point (maybe a land mark, we had a big tree called the "Beech Tree" it was the biggest in the forest), read a passage from scripture, continue on in silence, get to another point, read scripture. Here is where I would blindfold the youth and we would lead them on a trust walk. During the trust walk I would break them apart, after the group was separated on the trail I would go to each individual and ask them a question. Then bring them back together, walk for a bit, have them take off the blindfolds. Continue in silence. Then we would make to our last stop on the trail. (at our camp we had a fire pit in the woods called "counselor's chapel") There we would meet the youth's bible study leader for the week, they would give a brief message or something. Often we had youth pick up something that described them along the hike (a leaf, or rock, or stick, whatever) then at the fire pit they would describe it and put it into the fire symbolizing the giving up of self. Continue in silence back to the starting point, close in prayer.

    Talk about the experience later at our nightly vespers.

    (this is just one way to do the quest walk. it always included silence, scripture, and walking. the scripture was different and the stopping points were different depending on who was leading. i tried to only use the words of scripture as the voice that we heard throughout the walk.)

    hope this helps


    Brian said...

    Thanks to all who continue to share your ideas. I hope others are finding these useful like I am. I'm impressed by the variety here, which I think every good camp needs: the crazy games, the meaningful worships, the affirming activities.

    We do a vespers (evening prayer) service every evening after dinner and then have some big all camp activity. In the past, these have been high energy, crazy stuff like Yuk nite (messy games). This summer, in an effort to provide more relaxation time for staff and campers, we are trying more low-key stuff in the evening: an evening swim at the pool, an outdoor movie night, a night of silence (much like Greg's Quest Walk) mentioned above, and then conclude the last night of camp with a talent show/party.

    Franklin Wood said...

    1)One year we had a "Spiritual Warfare" theme. During Bible classes, kids were encouraged to memorize scriptures about several topics (hypocrisy, lying, apathy, etc.) Later in the week, kids were split into teams and had to make their way to campfire, encountering "demons" along the way, who tempted them with the various topics we had studied. The teens had to quote scripture for the demons to leave them alone. We had also been hinting that prayer would help the situation.

    2)One camp had teens sign up for SIGs (Special Interest Groups) early in the week. They could do Journalism (daily camp newsletter), puppets, service projects, drama, apologetics, and preaching. The idea was to help them get interested in ministry opportunities at their local churches. I just learned that one young man who went through the Preaching SIG just accepted his first ministry position!!

    3)Re-enact the Lord's Supper. It was intense watching the love the disciples had for Jesus contrasted by Judas making a hasty exit to betray Christ.

    4) Catacomb Worship - We put cardboard over the dining hall windows and lit candles. Kids came by cabins with one of them wrapped in a blanket and carried by others (as if it were a funeral.) Camp Director read one of Paul's letters as if it had just arrived. Better for an older, more mature group.

    5) Cabin Servants - Instead of pranking another cabin, encourage your cabin of kids to decide how they can serve (anonymously, if you want) another cabin. Sweep and mop their floor, throw away trash, fold clothes, etc.

    These are all awesome ideas...thanks for sharing!

    Kat Bevis said...

    For the last couple of years we have run a silly activity called Keep fit with Jesus which starts at 1am.
    We use dvd's which teach childrens action songs and leap around to them. Its very light hearted and silly but a great way of sneaking in some basic biblical truths and it has solved some of the night time challenges we used to have.

    Brian said...

    Franklin, I especially like the cabin servants idea. I know the pranking can be fun but I know too well how that stuff can get out of hand and start consuming the whole week of camp. Better to focus their energies in a positive direction.

    Kat, are you really up at 1 AM with the kids? You are brave! : )

    haze said...

    At our camp we have what we call a "call to faith". Instead of using just the bell or siren to assemble the kids, we use the camp theme song . They have an assigned group or family as we call it, and each family has their own cheer or yell which they use during the call of faith. They can't cheer unless all the family members are complete, the first one to cheer gets additional point.

    chad said...

    I feel like I have done everything under the sun with programming creativity, skits, theme nights, ad events. One thing I have done outside of that that has helped has been to engage parents after camp right away. We held a debrief for parents an hour before their kids arrived home. Our parents were asked to come pick up there kids earlier than when they were scheduled to arrive. One of our team members rushed ahead of the group with a highlight dvd and some anonymous letters from kids to their parents. The parents watched the dvd highlights and heard the letters read to them. Our pastor gave them a 15 minute talk on the signifigancce of camp in their kid's lives and how they could help their kid going forward with their decisions. The pastor also helped ready the parents for helping their kids with baptism for those who were coming back to take the plunge. It helped alot considering that in the past we just dropped them off and went home to crash too tired to engage mom and dad beyond "hello."

    Kathryn said...

    I'm actually looking for a wide game that I've seen somewhere before. It's based around the persecuted Church, and involves having 'safe' houses, secret police and the like. Any one know where I can find it?

    shygal_810 said...

    Love your ideas everyone.

    What we do at our camp ever so often is the last night we have a "Royal Banquet". That's where the youths get dressed up in their best and dine as royalty. It creates a great atmosphere for socializing as you know, no matter what there'll always be those who don't like mingling in the crowds.

    There was another time we had an international camp with groups from various islands and we had an island show. The representatives in the pageant, if you wanna call it that, would display their country's style of fashion and some idea of how their church would do things differently. It was nice. The winner was crowned camp ambassador.

    Ash said...

    One of our favorite things to do at camp happens on the last night. We have all the teens line-up and we tape colored paper on their backs and each one is given a marker. They are all given instructions to write something encouraging on someone else's back. You would be amazed at how well this works and how much the kids love it. It lets them all say something that maybe they wanted to say but would'nt and gives them an awesome souvineer from camp. This could last for hours so you want to do it when you have some time and make sure you have extra paper because they may need a few pieces each!