How I Shared the Story of God at Kids Camp
I had an opportunity to speak at a kids camp a few weeks ago. I love speaking at camps because the kids are so excited for whatever you bring to them. I could ask them to give a shout out for socks and they would scream their lungs out. While this is an easy win for a camp speaker it also should be considered an area of caution. One of the worst things you can do at a kids camp is get them excited about something that isn't real. I believe that the Bible is real. I believe that God is real. A lot of Christian hype is not real. And so I set out to tell our kids the story of God during our week at camp.
The rest of the team had the games, cabins and food ready to go. The speaking was my responsibility. I thought about all of the fun speakers I have listened to over the years. We have hosted a yo-yo guy, illusionists (you don't call them magicians at church camp), and a talented ventriloquist. I couldn't do any of those things so I stuck to what I knew: youtube.com. That is right. Each talk I shared with the kids were primarily illustrated with youtube clips (a lot of cats and exploding things). I was helped by one Billy the Goat. He is a puppet but I am not a puppeteer. I basically just yell a lot and have Billy jump in front of my face every time I talk. I did OK until the kazoo duet at the end of camp.
All that was left was for me to determine what I was going to tell the kids. There is a simple formula that many camp speakers have followed over the years. Your church tradition may follow a different pattern but my experience looks like this:
Tuesday: Talk about God wanting to deal with their issues
Wednesday: Talk about being filled with the Holy Spirit
Thursday: Talk about being an extension of God's love
Friday: Sum every thing up and go home
Throw in a few waterballons and a corn dog and you have yourself a great camp. This is not a bad forumla. People use it because it is an effective way to walk kids through some of the more relevant parts of their faith journey. But I started planing for the week with a slightly bigger question: how can I share the story of God with these kids?
I had one advantage of having five full service hours to talk to the kids. We have designed our camps to consist of one full service in the morning and one response service in the evening. This allows kids to process one big idea per day and work through it with their cabin staff and friends through a variety of mediums (large gathering, cabin devotions, intentional activities). Here is what I told the kids each day:
Monday: You are the best part of God's BIG creation.
Tuesday: Jesus gave a BIG gift to fix your sin problem.
Wednesday: You have BIG freedom from the yucky parts of sin.
Thursday: God gives us BIG power to tell people about Him.
Friday: Jesus has sent you on a BIG mission.
This may not look too different from the previous outline (our theme for the week was "BIG"). I went out of my way to walk kids through the Bible from the very beginning. We started with creation. Kids were told how God made everything inculding themselves. This message was going over great until the giant weather balloon we inflated exploded on its way out of the auditorium. I spoke about firmness using the story of the passover. We started with God's promise to Abraham and the stories of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Joe left us in Egypt where we jumped to Moses and the persecuted people of Israel. The tie in to Jesus here is an obvious one. Language like the blood of the lamb makes sense when you have actual lamb blood as a part of your story (and the boys like the gros stuff). The third day we used the language of breaking down walls and took up with the Israelites at the city of Jericho. The wall represented something that stood between themselves and God's promise for their life. On Thursday we made our way to the New Testament and followed the crazy steps of Peter: his boldness, cowardice and epic proclamation of Jesus Christ as he was filled with the Holy Spirit. And then we followed Paul and his tireless missional attitude; even when he was being taken to Rome to stand trial.
That may sound like a mouthful because it is. I feel that it is extremely important to help kids connect each of our Bible stories to each other. So often we are content to leave one story hang out there by itself. The more connections we make between stories the more significant they become. An entire generation of Bible readers are counting on us to help them connect the dots between creation and Christ. I know that I didnt do it perfectly but it was important enough for me to try.
Long post here. What do you think? How do you tell kids the story of God?