This past weekend was in Greenville, IL. to speak at a youth retreat. After arriving and helping my friend Matt get things situated I reflected on the camps and retreats I’ve been a part of over the years. It came to mind that my first camp speaking gig was almost 25 years ago and I was only 24 years old. (what were they thinking!)
Throughout the weekend I tried to pay attention…making mental notes about the similarities and differences of camps and campers over the years. Would you believe I think more things have stayed the same than have changed?
I only noticed a couple differences. The first was worship. When I started speaking to groups of students we didn’t worship well. Either we had a group in to do it for us or we just plain skipped it, subbing in a big game or get to know you activity. Thankfully we’ve gotten a better handle on worship. It was a privilege to work with my good friend Jake Randall this weekend. He is one of the best in the biz, helping crowds of any age become aware that they are in the presence of God.
The other difference was technology. Our retreat video was entirely shot and edited on an iPhone. When I started the internet wasn’t around. Therefore there were no youtube clips available, no Facebook to stay connected with new friends, not even a video projector back in the day. Kids and adults are so wired now which highlights the need for us to “retreat” periodically.
What I found joy in was how many things are still the same as they were at the 1986 North Florida camp where I started. Students love their friends and can have fun anywhere. Sleep is overrated. There are still boy-crazy girls and girl-crazy boys. There are still awkward kids looking for someone to tell them they’re ok. (btw – most of them feel awkward and need reassurance, some just hide it better than others) Campground coffee is still bad, beds are still lumpy, and drama still happens.
But the fact still stands that some of the best people on earth invest countless hours working with youth. Some get paid to but most don’t. They do it because they love students. They do it because they believe…attending a play, coaching a team, teaching a class, or throwing parties when you only have popcorn and water…will make a difference. They believe (like the Vineyard says) “Small things done in great love can change the world.”
It made me think of a few people in my teenage years that did lots of small things with great love. Thanks Jill, Dave, and Doug. The impact of your influence has rippled from coast to coast for over 25 years.
PS – Most kids are off school today. Take one out for lunch. Ask them how they’re doing…how they’re really doing. Look them in the eye. Tell them how dorky you were. It is the best investment you can make.