Monday, July 15, 2013

Don't Baptize Students at Camp!

With summer in full swing and thousands of churches heading off to camp lives are going to be changed.  Students are signing up for camp the first day of registration, they are inviting their friends to come to a life changing experience and they are excited for what God is going to do.  Leaders are taking time off of work to pack a bag, sleep in an uncomfortable bed, eat some decent food and expecting God to move in students lives.  Parents have saved all year, they are writing checks, signing paperwork and doing late night trips to Target to make sure their child has everything they need for camp.  Youth pastors have worked hard, created videos to promo camp, invited students who are far from Jesus and are praying for God to move this summer.

It happens all too often.  Camp is going great.  The message from the speaker hits home in a students life.  There is a lake and someone just read Matthew 28:19-20.  Unfortunately, this summer, a youth pastor will take an unforgettable moment away from a parent.  A well intentioned leader will thoughtlessly tell a student they should be baptized.  A student will beg their pastor to baptize them in the location where they re-dedicated their life to Christ.  

In my almost decade of student ministries I never once baptized students at summer camp!

You may think this is a crazy statement to make but I think its a compassionate reality.  Here's why:

Involve Parents in Spiritual Moments
When baptizing students at camp we alienate their parents from being involved in spiritual moments of their life affirming the misconception their student(s) don't need them.  When Rachel calls her mom on the way home from camp and tells her she was baptized mom has her smile on but her heart drops.  Rachel's mom wants to be there with her baby for these spiritual milestones.

Invite Non-Christian Friends
When you wait till your home to baptize students you get an exponential increase for your student ministry.  See when you baptize Rachel at camp she doesn't get an opportunity to invite her 5 non-Christian friends to celebrate with her.  Now multiply that by the 12 students you just baptized and 60 students in your community are now at your church hearing stories of changed lives. BOOM!

Plan a Baptism Ahead
(Students we baptized after our last summer camp)
The best way to solve this problem (my words) is to plan ahead.  Before you leave for camp work with your lead pastor and plan a baptism.  While you're at camp tell your leaders about this upcoming baptism.  After your students give their life to Christ for the first time or decide to re-up their relationship encourage them to get baptized when they get home.  Now you get to have your church involved in their lives, their parents there and they get to invite their friends you may have never met!  

Look at all these wins you get by planning ahead.  The win you may not have seen is people in your church are going to hear the stories of life change and want to be involved with what God is doing in your student ministry.  If you already baptized students at camp this year don't worry, there's always next year.

What do you think? 


Unknown said...

I think that is excellent advice Neal.

donsmithv10 said...

Wow...You nailed it Neal! Bringing the parents along in the Spiritual mentoring and journey of the Kids is key to discipleship of young people. We to often fly solo as youth pastors in the discipleship of students. Great perspective and awesome advice! Thanks Bro!

donsmithv10 said... nailed it Neal! As a youth pastor I have found that I do not provide enough opportunities for the parents to take part and be active in the faith journey of the children. Great points and will take it to heart.

Sandra said...

As a parent of youth, I totally agree! and I love your heart for reaching more youth as they invite their friends to witness their public declaration of faith in Christ! :)