© Y2AM photos

Welcome to Fall. School is back in session, pumpkin spice lattes are back in fashion, and the high of summer camp is nothing but a memory.

Both campers and counselors leave a session of camp feeling energized in the Faith and connected with God. Even a few shorts days in a Christ-centered and prayerful environment are enough to set our hearts on fire for the Lord. Unfortunately, this universal experience has an almost universal corollary: the intense high of summer camp invariably makes way for a post-camp crash.

While camp is a safe space, we return to places of anxiety. While camp is a place of love and community, we return to a place of alienation and loneliness. While camp is a place where our Faith is cultivated, we return to a place where our Faith dries up.

And this seems to hold for campers and counselors alike.

The question for us is: how will we approach this situation? Are we satisfied that the high points of our youth and young adult ministry are measured in days and weeks, while our low points are measured in months and years?

As we work to strengthen our parish ministries, we can keep in mind three strengths of our camping ministries:

First, we invest very heavily in our camps. Besides the obvious financial costs, a single session of camp only happens because of weeks of preparation on the part of program directors, clergy, counselors, and staff. Every session is itself an intense experience as these adults pour out everything they have to ensure that kids are immersed in nothing but the love of Christ.

Second, camps only function because of the participation of a diverse team. Every session involves not just clergy but lay leaders, men and women of all ages and backgrounds who actively offer themselves as Christ’s workers, laboring in His vineyard.

And we can’t overlook how important it is for kids to not simply be recipients of ministry but co-workers in their own right, not simply receiving God’s love but sharing it with their fellow campers (and even their counselors).

Third, camps are liturgically grounded. Every day starts with Matins in the chapel. Every meal begins and ends with prayer. And so the day goes through Vespers and then prayers before bedtime in each cabin.

Prayer is not an afterthought but a priority, and shapes every activity at camp, no matter how simple or ordinary it may be. Camp shows us that even a game of kickball can be a prayerful expression of God’s love.

So, how heavily do we invest in youth and young adult ministry in our parishes? Do we have lay assistants to take the lead? Do we invite the participation of a team of volunteers, and prepare them to succeed? Do we ground our parishes in the services and work to make every experience, whether or not it happens in the church building, a Christ-centered one?

We may be leaving summer behind, but fruitful ministry is still possible no matter the season. Let’s take pride in what we accomplished this summer, and cultivate Christ-centered ministries that will introduce people to the Lord throughout the year.

Steven Christoforou is director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.