by Alicia Wilson, Prescott Pines Camp
At Prescott Pines we believe that we have been given a biblical mandate to make disciples, just as the church, so they may shine and make an impact. Matthew 5:14-16 describes that we are a city on hill and we are meant to shine before others. At camp it feels literal- we are on a hill and this is a time of revitalization for most, birth in new life for some, and discipleship for others. As a camp, we have outlets to carry out this mandate; one of them being through the vessel of our summer staff. We have the opportunity to make disciples and then send them out to their world and their churches to further the kingdom growth.
Our discipleship mission during the summer is specific to summer staff, and they come for about 9 weeks out of the summer to serve. They are completely engrossed in ministry at camp by working with kids and youth 24/7. They work side by side with us, to accomplish our mission in pointing kids toward Christ and being an asset to the local church. In order for us to expect them to pour out their lives with these kids we take responsibility for pouring out our lives to them. Matthew 7:16 says they will be known by their fruits. Discipleship is a key element to fulfilling that verse and reflecting the fruits of God not the fruits of man. Our priority is to minister to churches by ministering to our staff and it can come in many forms.
Ministering to our staff and discipleship to them is challenging at times, and we use many resources from different avenues to accomplish the goal. Some come through the help of the Christian Camp and Conference Association, some from other camps, and many churches in the area. Before our summer staff even arrives on site they are given a 10 week devotional book. They start doing a daily quiet time through this book and they are all studying the same thing before they are here. This builds the community and mindset before campers arrive, it also helps them start habits of reading the Word daily, if they weren’t consistent before. We create weekly meetings throughout the summer to keep them thinking about the bible studies they have been doing. It is good for us to have the opportunity to all share things that caught our attention or disciplines to practice more diligently for the next week. The most important thing that happens is one on one time. Discipleship may happen very spontaneously at summer camp. There are moments of frustration and moments of searching that camp seems to facilitate frequently. These are some of the hardest and most rewarding times that we have. The concept of growth and discipleship doesn’t always come packaged in a pretty little box with a bow on it; often it comes in messy situations and hard times during stressful, sleepy, summer evenings. That one on one prayer time and guidance is where the reality of faith is evident.
One thing that is a constant for our staff is prayer. We pray every morning, and we carried that on through our summer staff. We had a group of people who would take time away from breakfast to pray over the day. During some of these times we noticed God’s impressive work. As a group we would pray over our chapel times, small group times, activities, and the kid’s attitude and behavior. During each week we could see God’s activity answering prayers and working in these kids’ lives. It was truly amazing to see answered prayers and kids coming to Christ, this was the ultimate morale booster.
The environment of camp is unique in regards to how we can approach discipleship. In a church setting, the church may have the opportunity to see a person once or twice a week for a couple of hours. There may even be small group in that week which would add a few more hours. In our camp environment, we see a person all day long, every day- with the exception of Saturdays. We have more hours in the day for discipleship opportunities, but only a short, limited time. The church may have years to work with one individual, but in small bursts. With a 24/7 program it is similar to going through growth spurts, and growth spurts can be often painful and emotional, but we may gain a lot of ground in a short time. Then they eventually continue in their normal growing pattern. In the camp environment there is a certain amount of vulnerability to be surrounded by new people and a network that you are now forced to depend on.
The process of discipleship should be never ending. We hope that our piece of impact, whether big or small, will last through their season with us at camp and beyond. We may have influence only for a summer, but it has the potential to last. Our hope is to create disciples just as Jesus commanded. We wish to continue with some of these students throughout the year. Some will return to us next year, and others will move on. Some will be in touch throughout the year, during winter camp, and camp retreats. We hope to keep the relationships going in their world. It may be over coffee one day, or at a leadership event, or maybe it will ignite a movement of other disciples. We will continue to do our part the best we can, train and recruit for each season and hopefully develop a new level of impact and depth in having a relational faith with our Creator.