(Ideas borrowed from Catholic Youth Summer Camp in Centerburg, Ohio with permission)
Camp is one week out of the year. We know that we are only a small part of each of the campers faith journey and spiritual development. It is up to the parishes and schools to do the hard work on on-going formation and education.
Camper Connect Night:
As summer is ending and students are ready to head back to school, consider hosting a dinner for your campers. Invite your campers (and maybe their families) to the parish one night for a nice formal dinner or even just a pizza party, prayer and discussion as a way to help the students get excited to practically live out what they learned at camp.
During dinner you could use the discussion questions below to get the kids thinking about specific ways they can share their faith.
It would also be a great idea to invite people from the parish who can share with the students about their ministries and help them find ways to get involved (e.g. Youth Minister to share with them about Youth Group, DRE to get classroom helpers for Sunday School and VBS, the person in charge of training altar servers, lectors, and Eucharistic Ministers, etc.)
Don’t forget to invite your priest! He can offer the students a blessing as they head into the new school year!
1. What did I hear God speak to me this summer?
2. Where was I when God was speaking? (For a lot of them they will hear God speaking in Adoration, daily Mass and Confession. It will be good to encourage them to continue frequenting the Sacraments! Many others will also have heard God in their small group. Sometimes students go home and stop talking about God with one another, encourage them to keep it up! Maybe even to set up times to hang out with their camp small group throughout the year to be refreshed and strengthened!)
3. What commitments will I make to prayer this year?
4. What ways can I better love and live out my faith in my family?
5. What ways can I get more involved in my parish?
6. What ways can I serve God and share my faith in my school?
7. Who are people that I can seek out to help me continue growing in my faith?
Family Holy Hours:
Often, campers come home so excited about their faith that they are even spur a greater desire in their parents to live out their faith more intentionally. We have seen that campers who come home to families who encourage their faith journey are all the more likely to remain faithful disciples after leaving camp. It is so important to also support the faith life of the entire family not only the youth. Creatively think of ways to support family life – Check and see what activities your parish already has (Men’s Fellowship, Parent Prayer Groups, Bible Studies, Family Rosaries, etc.) and see how you can help fill a need!
The U.S. Bishops encouraged parishes across the country to start once-a-month “Family Holy Hours”. Talk to your priest about a time that could be set aside to expose our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and advertise this to the families! Calling the families of campers may be a good place to start getting families to attend because adoration is such an important part of the children’s camp experience. Let them know that it’s okay if the kids aren’t perfectly quiet! The priest may also want to read a gospel passage and preach a homily and hear confessions during this holy hour. Another option is to have a lay person share a scripture reflection as a source of guided meditation.
Successful youth ministry programs allow campers to surround themselves with the environment and the people they need to help continue living the adventure of their faith throughout middle school and high school. The more time, effort, and money invested in youth ministry will bear eternal results. If you don’t have a youth group at your parish, let us know! We’d love to help you in any way we can to start something for your middle school or high school students! We have worked with campers and parents from other parishes in the past to help form successful youth ministry programs for those parishes.