Students challenged to know God and make Him knownby C. Walter Overman
Every summer, nearly 7,000 youth from across North Carolina attend one of seven summer youth weeks at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC).
This year, more than 400 of those students committed their lives to vocational ministry.
“We had 10 to 15 students the first few years I was here respond to God’s call on their lives for vocational ministry,” said Merrie Johnson, BSCNC youth evangelism and discipleship consultant. “Every year that number just grows and grows. To me, that is just huge.”
Johnson, who has directed youth weeks for 14 summers, said challenging youth to commit to vocational ministry is not an emphasis at youth weeks, but each week students are given the opportunity to respond to that calling if they feel led.
“These kids are responding to the call to be preachers, music ministers, youth ministers. God is working on their hearts,” Johnson said.
Make Him Known
The primary focus of youth weeks, Johnson said, is to challenge students to glorify God with their lives regardless of their career aspirations.
“We want them to understand that God wants a relationship with them that would change the world; that our purpose is to know God and make Him known,” Johnson said. “Whether you’re going to be a teacher, lawyer, musician, you are called to give Him glory with your life and use your talents to further the Kingdom.”
Johnson added that many of the youth, in addition to those making commitments to vocational ministry, are growing in their faith as they incorporate what they learn at camp into their daily lives when they return home.
“We are seeing spiritual growth in these students as they learn what it means to live for Christ,” she said. “A lot of students commit to going back home to start prayer groups and evangelistic rallies at school. They are just coming up with things God is placing on their hearts to do.”
Youth weeks provide youth opportunities to grow in their faith through times of personal and small group Bible study, supplemented with times of worship that include contemporary Christian music and world-class Christian speakers.
This year’s youth weeks theme was “Tag: You’re It,” based on Joshua 1:9. Each week, students learned how to pray for their lost friends and relatives, how to share and defend their faith and were challenged to be witnesses for Christ every day.
“Anytime you share your faith, it’s a win,” said Adrian Despres, who served as the camp speaker one week this summer.
Despres encouraged the students to remain committed to witnessing even when the fruit of their labor is unseen and to share and defend their faith with Christ-like attitudes.
“Most people don’t come to faith the first time they hear the gospel. Just keep sharing it,” he said. “Share it with kindness and love, that’s how we treat people who do not believe the Bible and Jesus Christ.”
One Million Meals
In 2011, Johnson added a missions component to youth weeks by partnering with Change This World, a ministry to help send food to people all over the world who have nothing to eat. Through Change This World, churches, organizations and individuals can feed someone for a quarter a meal.
Every Wednesday night, students give to a missions offering that goes toward providing meals for people in Haiti. But the students do more than give money; they also participate in packaging the meals during the week.
“There are a lot of kids who come to camp who don’t have funds to go on mission trips. This is one way they can participate in missions,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that once the students package the meals, they often want to do more.
“Instead of wanting to go to the beach or the pool, these kids always ask if they can package more meals,” she said. “They understand the difference they are making in people’s lives.”
This year, students packaged 300,000 meals, bringing the four-year total to more than one million meals to Haiti (See related story here).
Justin Crouse, youth pastor at Richmond Hill Baptist Church in Booneville, said youth weeks’ mission component and emphasis on spiritual growth has a tremendous impact on students.
“I like youth weeks because it gets the students away from the world’s influence and gets them focused on the Lord,” he said. “When that happens, God can move in amazing ways, and He has done that this week.”
Crouse, who has been coming to youth weeks for as long as he can remember, said the spiritual change in student’s lives keeps him coming back.
“Youth weeks is my highlight of the year,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
A total of 6,573 youth attended youth weeks this summer, representing 264 churches. During the summer, 487 youth made first-time professions of faith in Christ and 3,267 rededicated their lives to Christ. The camps are for rising seventh graders to high school seniors.
For more information about youth weeks, visit www.bedotell.com.