Summer Camp & My Philosophy (and a few memories)

For the past 14 years I’ve been speaking at summer camps! Haven’t missed a summer, at least 1 camp for the past 14 years, WOW! And for a good stretch of that time I was speaking at 5, 6, 7 — I think my record was speaking 8 camps in a summer! I remember one summer having an open week and as I was traveling from New York back to Nashville for my week off when I received a call from a fellow camp speaker and friend, “Erik, I’ve got car problems. Can you go to West Virginia this week and speak a camp for me?” I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. My answer, “HECK YEA!” I turned around and headed to West Virginia for an amazing week of camp.

I LOVE CAMP!

I’ve grown over the years in how I understand camp and how I see my role at a camp when I’m the speaker / camp pastor. I understand the importance of the role and believe it to be a sacred privilege to come along side youth pastors and camp programmers in the ministry of summer camp. And the amazing opportunity to connect with students, if even for only a week, on their spiritual journey is absolutely trilling!

I also feel like I understand this in a deeper or at least different way now that I’m also a youth pastor who takes students to camp. I understand a bit better the hopes and prayers of those youth pastors sitting next to their students whom they’ve loaded up and driven hundred of miles to camp. Youth pastor and volunteers who have taken time away from their families and are sleeping on poorly padded slabs of plywood and eating less then desirable food all with the hope that these students they love and are invested in will encounter God and be transformed to live their faith when they get home!

I GET IT!

These days I speak at 1 or 2 camps in a summer. It’s perfect!

Life is busy. I’m a full-time youth pastor, which I love and is my ministry priority. I have a growing family, which is actually my highest ministry and priority. I’m writing books and blogs and dreaming about the future God has for my family and me.

Life is busy but I am so very thankful that I still get to do camp ministry as a speaker!

This summer I’m speaking at 1 camp. It’s only an hour from my house, which is awesome! (Although I love traveling - which I don’t get to do much these days.)

I was emailing with the camp director the other day and was trying to communicate with him about my philosophy of camp and something like this is what came out…

“My philosophy of being a camp speaker / pastor is that I’m at the disposal of the director of the camp and the youth pastors of the camp. Whatever you need and however you can use me to make the camp experience what you are hoping for, I’ll do my best to deliver that! I don’t see myself as a hired gun who comes in with a prepackage set of messages that may or may not work for your camp. I’m crafting message specifically for you, your students and the experience you are trying to create, trusting with you that God will be encountered and transformation will be set in motion as we come along side God and what He is wanting to do! So let’s do it!”

That’s my heart! I love it! I can’t wait till next week! It’s camp time!!!

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As I write this blog I'm remembering some of my favorite camp experiences! I'm thankful for these people and places! Thought I would share...

#1. Manville Nazarene Camp - NWIL Camp :: This has to be number 1 because it’s the camp I grew up at and it’s the place and the people who God used to draw me to himself. I remember getting the opportunity to be the camp speaker. I was probably 22 or so and in absolute awe that God would bring my life in such full circle. From being the little middle school student with no clue of who Jesus was to now being the speaker He was using to tell those squirly students of who He was and the good news of a relationship with him and the abundant life He was leading them into! WOW! So awesome!

(no order for the rest of the camps)

* Alaska Naz. Camp :: 2 weeks in Alaska, hanging with students, sharing Jesus and doing a lot of really cool experiential exercises in faith and growth. Bob Sugden, the camp director is a stud who really loves students and puts on a GREAT low key and transformational camp!

* Youth Front / KC Naz. Camp :: The Youth Front people are some of the coolest folks I know. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE what they are doing! They would probably be my highest recommendation if I were to asked by a youth pastor “where should I go to camp.” (With camp Illuminate & Bryant Underwood a close second, even though I haven’t spoke for Byrant.) Youthfront is doing some different kinds of things these days, still LOVE IT though. Micah Thomas and Mike King are some of those people who I really wish I could spend exponentially more time around!

* Edge Camp :: Bob Swan is probably one of the best youth workers I’ve ever crossed paths with! A veteran - lifer youth pastor! He puts on a RAD camp for sure!!!

* IL Naz. Camp :: Spoke at this camp many times! Have make many friends at this camp that I still keep in touch with! Amazing people like Jamie Toolen, Brad Grinnen, Todd Holman, Erin Murphy and more! I’ve also had the weirdest camp experience ever at this camp. That’s a story for another day ;-)

* Barefoot Republic Camp :: This camp has one of the coolest missions ever as they seek racial, economic and denominational reconciliation. I had an amazing week with them despite rooming with the loudest snorer I have ever encountered in my life! Tommy Rhodes is doing an amazing ministry here!

* Fuge Camp Belmont :: I don’t often get to hangout with the Baptists at camp but the handful of Fuge camps I’ve had the opportunity to speak at have been really great. They’ve all been mission camps, working and participating in God’s mission during the day and connecting your actions to God’s Word at night. Love that model! Jerod, Kyle Cravens, James Jackson — such great camp hearts and minds!

* Fuge Hawaii :: Hawaii — enough said! But it was also a great camp. Got to dig in with students in Bible studies and activity groups. Exhausting week but really great and did I mention it was in Hawaii!!! And Lori Mangum, Brad Puckett and Eric Vinson were amazing to do ministry with!

* NY Metro Naz. Camp :: Hanging and sharing at such a diverse camp was a really cool experience. And the pranks were EPIC! ;-) Lou Zambito and Darren Ojeda are amazing dude and the Morales crew are simply amazing people!!!

* Smithmills Camp :: I been to Smithmills a couple times, such a great family experience! A very primitive camp, open air tabernacle and all the trappings that remind one of the “good old days!” And really great people and the best seafood ever! Bill and Jayne Eklund and all their amazing student leaders! Amazing place, amazing people!

As I make this list I just realize i’ve had so many amazing camps experience and I can’t even remember them all! Chicago camp, So Cal Camp, Virginia Naz Camp, Ohio Camps and the list goes on! Thankful for all the people and places God has introduced me to!