As we prepare for Youth Week, I started thinking about why I believe in youth week. Youth Week camp in South Africa has been run by Youth for Christ (YfC) since 1963. Youth Week will be 50 in 2013! This camp is one of the means in which YfC reaches young people to make them followers of Christ and discipling them into a local church.
I am involved in Youth Week again and looking forward to it! This camp not only brings together, young people from around South Africa, but from around other Southern African (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique) countries as well as overseas (Germany, Netherlands, USA etc).
2010, with the theme, “The Ultimate Goal” gathered about 600 campers. The theme for Youth Week 2011 is, “Got Milk, Need Meet”. The theme scripture is Hebrews 5:12-14. The heart of this camp is to challenge young people to go to a deeper relationship with God.
I thought I’d share some of the reasons why I believe Youth Week, which are some of the reasons I believe have helped this camp “live” this long:
Geared to the times, Anchored to the Rock
This has been YfC’s “modus operandi” for years. This motto affirms the importance of staying relevant in communicating the unchanging message of Christ to young people. There are universal needs that young people have that do not and will not change with time.
Despite this the means of communicating the message of Christ needs to change as the language of young people evolves. The needs of all generations maybe the same but it is very apparent that the language is not.
The essence of communication is ensuring that the receivers perceive the sent message as intended by the originator. Hence speaking the ‘language’ of your (target) audience is paramount. One of the reasons I believe in Youth Week is the willingness or openness to change or adapt methods as need arise.
The need to change the means is derived from a realization of the changes in youth culture. This is as a result of also staying in touch with the changes in youth culture.
For any organization or venture to survive there is need to constantly study the environment it exists in and adjust accordingly. Not adapting to the changing needs of your environment may guarantee not only your failure but extinction.
I like that Youth Week brings together young people from diverse backgrounds and places but countries as well. This enriches understanding of the world that they engage with and will engage as they mature, broadening their worldview and outlook.
There is no better way to better way to understand people from a culture alien to yours than actually interacting with people. The interaction also encourages the young people to be more open and accommodating to those coming from environments foreign to them.
When Jesus walked the earth, He made it apparent what it meant and cost to follow Him. Youth Week embraces this model. Young people are challenged to wholly follow Christ, with no fluff. No watered-down Christianity is presented to the campers.
While being “hip” is characteristic of Youth Week, staying true to what Jesus calls his followers is core to the camp as well.
I believe as youth ministers we may rob young people of the ” full reward” of what it means to be a follower of Christ if we give them a somewhat “anemic picture” of what it means. Authenticity will outlast fluff any day! Hence Youth Week “living” for this long.
The Other Stuff
There are many other things I like about the camp e.g. the worship – great! The diverse electives (break out groups) that are not only fun but empower young people with practical skills and creatively challenge the campers.
These bring in “different voices” besides the speakers in the main sessions. I like the competition that comes with some of the day activities that adds an extra vibe, giving no opportunity for the campers to be idle… Among other reasons this is why I believe in youth week.
What do you think is important for youth camps? If you’re “youth-weeker” what do / did like about Youth Week?