June 21 will be a special day...a day in which the youth rental van will pull out and head to Fuge 2010 at North Greenville University in South Carolina.
In some ways the camp itself is a miracle of God. Just the fact that we are taking a van load of students and 2 adults is amazing. This summer camp is the camp that almost wasn't. I seriously considered cancelling camp due to a lack of registrations. I worried, I fretted, I became frustrated that youth were not signing up for camp. I never had this problem before, why now?
After a couple months of bickering within my soul and some spiritual warfare where the devil won a couple of fights, I resigned to the fact that I might have to cancel camp. You see, Satan is hard at work at trying to confuse and frustrate the effort of today's children and youth pastors. Why? Because he knows that if he can startle and scare us he will perhaps be victor of an incredible battle on the front lines of ministry...for the hearts, minds, and souls of today's young person. If he can discourage, frustrate, even anger the hearts of the pastors odds are his side will be closer to victory in the battle. And he almost won this one.
Almost! That's a key word in the last sentence of the above paragraph. And then I received a phone call from a fellow youth pastor in a nearby large Southern Baptist Church in Walker County. He asked, "Tommy, I'm calling you to ask you a question...something is happening here and after talking to some of my youth minister friends, I have become concerned about something...are you having a difficult time recruiting students to your summer camp?" I almost dropped the phone...who told him?... He continued, "...the reason I ask is because I've only had 8 youth sign up for my summer retreat. We normally have over 100 students attend but this year only 8...I am thinking I might have to cancel this year's summer retreat!" I don't know if he could hear my rushing blood or my thumping heartbeat, but I was stunned. I wasn't alone. Satan had me convinced the problem must have been me or my leadership. Almost! I suddenly realized CVBC was not the only church having a rough time recruiting youth to camp. It was like drowning until I realized I had a "swimming" partner. And God tossed in the life preserver!
Yesterday, June 11, I recieved a text message from Greg Spradlin, area director of the Lookout Mountain FCA. Every summer Greg's ministry has hosted an amazing week of sports ministry for 1st through 5th grade students called "Power Camp". His email suprised me almost as much as the phone call earlier. Greg texted, "I have had to cancel next wks FCA Power Camp. Too few pre camp registrations. Thank u for trying to get me high school athletes to be our huddle leaders!!!"
I in no way am rejoicing over the difficulties these 2 ministers are having within their ministries...its a shame, really. But, the news was God's way of showing me two things:
(1) I am not alone in the struggle...there are other pastors and ministers who are having the same issues.
(2) the 10 youth and 2 adults going to our camp are God's chosen 12. This is not to say anything...other than to say that God has something in store for us at this camp.
As to #2 I do not have the foggiest idea what He has planned. But, I am glad He led me to reconsider cancelling the camp. No, we won't have 25-40 youth as normal, but we will have the 12 He wants there.
So, please pray for these 12: Amie Hill, Tucker Hill, Chris Cronnon, Austin Bowen, Jordan Epperson, Blakely Epperson, Sara Edwards, Brittany Andersen, Kailey Ford, Peyton Vowell, Jessica Collins, and myself. Its not 25, not 50, not 100. Its 12...12 people chosen by God.
Pray also for my two friends mentioned above. Pray for all youth and children's pastors...any pastor for that matter. Prayer actually works. Encourage your pastors...they need it. Trust me on that one!
The reasons behind why church camps and FCA efforts are stalling still go unanswered. Perhaps the economy? Perhaps shorter summer break? Perhaps a lack of priorities? Perhaps none of the above?
I don't know what's happening, but all I can do is watch God work in these 12 and pray we won't have to go through this again next year.