A few weeks ago my wife Stacey took our youngest daughter Hailey to the doctor for some vaccinations that she needed to have. As all parents know taking your child for shots is especially difficult when they’re young. Hailey is 18 months old and as you can imagine she screamed when she got her shots. What’s really sad is that up until the moment she got stuck with the needle Hailey was happy and playful, even communicating with the “evil” nurse who did the deed. After about two minutes however, the screaming subsided and Hailey was calm and back to enjoying her day.
The vaccinations that Hailey received were incredibly valuable and important for her to have despite the fact that they were also very painful. Stacey and I would be irresponsible parents if we weren’t willing to take our daughters in for these vaccines that help them build immunity to various illnesses and diseases. It’s really sad to put our sweet little Hailey through the initial pain, but we recognize that we know what’s best for her. If the choice was left completely to our daughter I guarantee she would never get her shots. It’s just too scary and painful; she would be too nervous to do it. Thank God it’s not up to her though; if she didn’t get those vaccinations she would be left unprotected against many different life-threatening diseases.
Changing topics for a moment, as a youth ministry we just spent an incredible week together at Lift ‘09, our summer camp in Idaho at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. The 94 students and leaders that we took with us were ministered to and experienced God in powerful ways. Students that came to camp enjoyed tubing, incredible views and fast roller coasters. During the week, 14 people made commitments to live for Christ; I am so thrilled with how it went!
Interestingly enough it was not the roller coasters, incredible view, or tube rides that students were talking about. Our students were changed by what God did in our nightly services. Pastor Micahn Carter brought three messages that challenged students to go to a new place with God and they took him up on the challenge. God did AMAZING things all week long and I would not trade that experience for anything in the world.
Now just between you and me, do you know that despite what you just read I still had students tell me things like, “Sorry, I can’t go, not this time Andy,” and, “Maybe next year.”
If only they could have experienced camp first, then there would have been no way to keep them from coming along. I suppose it’s to be expected for a student to say no thanks, it’s not for me right now. After all, it’s kinda like going in for vaccinations, it can be a little intimidating, scary and unnerving. Truth be told though, the benefit of a student enduring the pain of being out of their comfort zone far outweighs the temporary discomfort in making that decision. In short, the risk is worth the reward.
Now pay attention to what I write next, this may blow you away… Not only did I have students tell me, “No thanks, maybe next year.” I also had parents say things like, “I really want my son/daughter to go, but they’re a little nervous about the whole thing.” I also had parents say things like, “I know it’s a good thing, but I don’t want to force them to go.”
On some level part of me understands this. A very small part. Students are beginning to make their own decisions, have their own desires, and want to exercise some independence from their parents. Fine. My question is why are we allowing a camp experience to be a time for students to exercise their free will?
As a parent, my goal and my aim is to make sure that my two daughters fall madly in love with Jesus and serve Him all the days that they live. I want to pass on to my children and my children’s children a legacy of Faith in Jesus that will continue generation after generation. As parents, Stacey and I are responsible for our children’s spiritual development. Therefore, I must rise up and lead the way for my family when it comes to spiritual matters. That means, that just like taking my girls in for shots I will make sure that when the bus leaves for kid’s camp and youth camp they’ll be on it. Even if they don’t feel like it at that particular moment.
I distinctly remember the first youth camp I ever went on as a small scrawny 7th grader. It was a winter retreat and the bus was leaving following Sunday morning services. My stomach hurt all day, I was nervous, I was scared and if it were left up to me I never would have gone. In fact, after I hugged my mom and stepped on the bus with tears streaming down my face I quickly found a spot and hid my face from the rest of the students. It wasn’t long before some students reached out to me and my camp experience changed. I still remember the power of those camp services; I don’t remember much of the content, but I know I was a changed teen. When we got home, I didn’t want that spiritual high to end. Thanks mom, for making sure I got on that bus.
Incredible things happen when students commit to spending the week with Jesus at a camp. I’ve experienced as a camper and as the leader of the camp. Parents please hear me. Do everything you can to get your students to camp. YOU are the spiritual leader of your home so… LEAD. Make the tough choice, I guarantee your student will be better for it.
I am for you, I am for your student; I want God to get a hold of their life! But those tears we cry and the prayers we pray are meaningless if we don’t put our students in a position to experience God at camp and at church. With our mouths we call out to God and say, “Touch my student, help them experience you.” All the while by not getting them to church, youth service, and camp we essentially tie God’s hands.
Parents: Let’s be who God has called us to be. Let’s be the spiritual leaders in our homes. Let’s make the tough decisions that put our children in a position for a life changing encounter with Jesus.