Awana youth camp happens once a year and trusting people sign up to be leaders for this 7 days and nights of 350+ teens and pre-teens holding captive of 50+ adults. They give no thought of sleep deprivation or endless scurrying from place to place watching your clock and trying to figure out, “where am I supposed to be?” and “what am I supposed to be doing?”. The endless wondering with 15 kids looking at you and you just hope that you’re going in the right direction.
Camp volunteers may have doubts when they are thinking of volunteering in this way. Volunteers are needed to be there and to share the gospel with kids at the AWANA camp. The kids come with a thought of fun and a chance to get away from daily routine and a chance to be with friends. Volunteers are hoping that the kids will have an experience with God that will bring them a new life in Jesus Christ or a closer relationship with God. That their lives will be changed for eternity and then, in turn, families will also be changed.
This was my second year volunteering for Awana camp. One week per year to focus on kids 24/7... the focus is to be there for the kids and in everything we do, to point them in the right direction. Leaders do this by listening, talking & praying with and for the kids. Every day is filled with games, chapel, prayer and more games. The hope is that as we lift up the name of Jesus, that God will speak to each kid. It does say that if God is lifted up that he will draw all men (kids) to himself.
I shared a cabin with 7 boys from 6th and 7th grade. We had a great time in our cabin; we all came from different places and backgrounds. Some kids open up right away and other kids take more time. It seemed that with every day there were new struggles and new victories. As your relationship grows with the kids over the week, you get more kids opening up.
I remember the first year I volunteered, toward the end of the week a kid asked me, “will you be here next year?” At that time I was not sure, so I said “I don’t know,” and made out like, “No big deal.” Then as the week went by I got more and more questions. It seemed that every kid that I spent any time with was asking if I was going to be there next year. Finally rather than saying, “I don’t know,” all non-comittal I ended up saying, “I hope so”.
One thing that happened to me the first year was another leader came to me and thanked me for coming and taking time out of my schedule to volunteer in this way. I tended to have a shrug in my shoulders and say, “No big deal”. But he stopped me and said it is a big deal. He went on to say about how few will take their time for the kids and how much it makes a difference for the kids. Leaders at this camp are a rare breed, they take their time and energy to focus on kids. Some of these leaders have been there for 20+ years and they still come back with a heart to serve and minister to the next generation. These leaders are always looking for ways to encourage and engage with the kids. They know that kids need to have role models that will come down to their level, and engage with them about what they are going through and look them in the eye.
Kids notice when they have your attention and when they don’t. Some kids never get the 100% attention from a parent figure so they live their lives thinking that no one cares. When kids feel like they have your time and energy they carry their heads higher, it seems that they put more thought to what they say and do.
At Chapel the preacher had a series of teachings that built all week. His analogy was baseball, first base was salvation, second base was prayer and a close relationship with Jesus and third base was service. Serving God and people around us. He spent the first night talking about First base salvation, but then every night he would point back and say you can’t get to second without first so in this way he kept pointing back to Jesus that salvation comes only through Jesus and recognizing that he paid for our sins. In this way every night he would encourage the kids to put their trust in Jesus. Every night their would be kids that would ask Jesus to come into their lives and be their Lord and savior.
One night he spoke about God using you and what you have to preach the gospel. He talked about how God can multiply what you have and make it more than enough. One story that he used was the story of Elijah and the widow. It goes something like this: A widow comes to Elijah and says, “My husband has died and the creditors are coming to enslave my son for payment.” Elijah asks her, “What do you have?” She says, “All I have is a little oil in a jar.” Elijah says to her, “Go collect all the jars you can and go into your house, close the door and take the oil and pour it and fill each jar. Take the oil sell it and pay the debts.”
When it comes to ministering and sharing the gospel with kids or with anybody, I might say I don’t have anything to share. I don’t have any great wisdom but is it possible that God is asking us, “What do you have?” God multiplied the oil- did it matter how much oil she started out with?
We need to focus on teaching our kids, so what do we have to share with the generation that is coming up.? It seems that every generation ismore troubled and confused then the one before. Some people don’t have a relationship with God because no one has shown them the way or taken the time. This generation needs leaders to show them the way. God can take what you have and make it more then enough to show the next generation the love of Jesus, that Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost.
When it comes to reaching kids with the gospel they don’t care how much money you have or what kind of job you have or what kind of a house you live in, but if you listen and care then they will know. Youth ministry is something that any adult could do, and kids can learn from your experiences no matter what they are. Your life has something to offer this next generation. One person who takes the time can make a difference for so many kids.
When kids are getting ready for a game someone will say line up tallest to shortest and you see all these kids with their hands on top of their heads and measuring themselves to each other. This reminded me of one middle aged man asking another “what do you do”. Youth ministry is not glamorous but it does have a lasting affect on kids. One thing I have seen with AWANA is parents come and volunteer while their kids go to the classes and then as the kids grow up they in turn volunteer, and the cycle starts again.