How do you help faith stick beyond camp?

Brad M. Griffin

This week I’m speaking at a middle school camp way up in the mountains.

I love camps. As students and youth leaders gather, there’s a lot of excitement in the air. Not to mention body odor.

While I’ve been preparing for this camp I’ve been thinking about a perennial struggle we all face when it comes to kids and camp: How do we help them translate their experience with God at camp back home? How does “camp high” lead into meaningful differences in everyday life without melting like a popsicle outside on a summer day?

Two points of good news here:

  1. We shouldn’t be cynical about the impact of camp. In our Sticky Faith research we found that camps and retreats were one of the few youth group practices linked to faith maturity over three years later.
  2. Camps want to partner with you to help.  This fall we’re speaking at a camp ministry conference on how Sticky Faith principles can make a difference in their ministries, because they’ve asked for insight from our research. Also, last spring we gathered a group of leaders to explore deepening various kinds of faith rhythms, and camps and retreats were the focus of one session. Micah Thomas of YouthFront camps joined us by Skype to share some ideas. Their teams try to avoid the “camp high” mindset by emphasizing that camp isn’t only about experiences that can’t be replicated at home. In fact, they try to send practices and materials home with students to help them carry faith rhythms forward into “normal” life.

One big insight for our group was that programs and events have an end, but practices don’t. When they become a way of life, practices continue to shape us beyond particular moments in time.

As a youth worker (or a parent), what ideas do you have or what have you seen work to help students translate camp faith into everyday faith?

Published Jul 23, 2012
Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Associate Director of the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is also the coauthor of Sticky Faith ​and Deep Justice Journeys. A native Kentucky youth pastor, Brad now lives in Southern California with his wife Missy and their three children.

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