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Summer Camps Help Churches Disciple Young People for Christ

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Over 500 young people attended Mt. Aetna Summer Camp and FLAG Camp this year.

Chesapeake Conference’s Mt. Aetna Summer Camp and FLAG camps recently wrapped their five weeks of summer programming for 2023. More than 500 campers attended camp this year at the conference summer camp in Hagerstown, Md., or one of the local church FLAG camp locations.

A significant point of emphasis for this year’s summer camps was connecting campers with local church youth and children’s ministry by encouraging campers to participate in programs like Sabbath School and Pathfinders at a church near their home. 

Staff members also pointed campers making decisions for Christ to a local church for taking their next steps. During summer camp and FLAG camp programming this year, 32 campers made decisions to be baptized, and 52 campers said they wanted to take further Bible studies. The decisions and contact information are being forwarded to local church pastors for follow-up.

According to Camp Ministries and Missions director Shawn Paris, the reason for pushing for local church involvement is simple: Summer camp and FLAG camp can only disciple young people for one or two weeks of the year, but churches can disciple them year-round. “The reality is discipleship happens most at the local level,” Paris says. “We want to connect young people with a local church and be a supportive branch of the discipleship that happens there.”

Camp staff also celebrated two campers who were baptized during summer camp at Mt. Aetna and were intentional to involve the local churches and ensure that the pastors could be present. 

Paris believes the conference’s summer camp programs can be an invaluable resource for local churches to enhance their evangelistic efforts. He points out that FLAG camp, in particular, can be a powerful evangelistic tool for bringing young people from the community into the church, especially when paired in close succession with Vacation Bible School. 

“FLAG camp is not just child or youth evangelism; it’s family evangelism,” Paris says. “You have an opportunity each day when the parents are dropping the kids off, and when they’re picking them up, to not only talk with them, but for them to see the care that you’re providing and to hear their kids come home every day and talk about the exciting things they did, and what they learned spiritually. That impacts those families and the community in a powerful way.”

Paris says he would encourage churches to begin planning how they can incorporate next year’s summer camps into their evangelism plans and consider setting aside funding in their church budgets for camp scholarships for young people in their local communities. 

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