Below is a guest blog post written by Will “Creek” Williams, the shepherd during the first week of camp this summer. Creek has been coming to camp for a number of summers now and had some really incredible messages to share with the campers as well as some great response from the campers. I asked him to share about one message in particular that received a wonderful response from the campers.
One of the hardest things in youth ministry is coming across youth who feel like no one cares for them or loves them. Often times it can be the youth that you would least expect to have these feelings. Self-worth is something that we find in three places – we find it in ourselves, we find it from the positive affirmations from our friends, family and community, and ultimately we find it from God. As our youth continue to grow physically, mentally and spiritually, we as a Christian community need to find ways to build our youth up in ways that will help them find their self-worth by showing them what God’s love is truly all about.
One example of this is through a shepherding experience I had at Bethany Birches camp. Late in June 2018, my family took a week to go up and serve at camp. My eleven year old son and my six year old daughter were campers and my wife served in various roles throughout the week. I was asked if I could be the “Shepherd” with my background in youth ministry and having previously served at the camp. Immediately I jumped at this opportunity as it is my passion to serve in various roles in camp ministry and share in the community experience that Bethany Birches provides.
On Tuesday night that week at the evening devotional, “Fireside”, I wanted the youth that were attending to understand what it meant to be made in the image of God and to see what self-worth is supposed to be through God’s eyes. With the theme of the week being water, I thought it would be a cool idea for us to spend time at the pond and look at our reflections. Looking at your reflection can be a simple exercise of seeing your own face or it can be an eye-opening opportunity to see just how much God loves us and how we are created in a unique and special way.
Most people when they look at their reflection are looking to see the negatives that are staring back at them. Even if it is used as an attempt to fix their hair, makeup, shave or wash up, it is to remove any blemishes that they may have. That is only on the surface. Some people, when they look closer, see negatives that are much worse and can be very damaging. Youth and adults alike can see things that other people never see and never hear from that person. Things such as “I am not pretty enough”, “People don’t like me”, “I am being bullied and no one even cares”, “No one loves me”, “My family hates me” and the list can go on and on. I have heard youth speak these words when looking at their reflections and I wanted to find a way to turn it around.
My challenge to the campers was to find one good quality that they could see in themselves. Once they found it, I asked them to go to a picnic table or spot around the pond to share that quality with their cabin. This is a great way for the youth to begin to see that God has planted something inside of them and that they just need to take the time to find it. Then I wanted the other campers to affirm and share a quality that they see in that person to help build them up. So thoughts could turn from “I am not pretty enough” or “I am not good enough” to hearing other people share that they are beautiful, that they are kind, that they are helpful, that they are awesome and that they are a part of a community that loves them. Hearing the counselors join in to affirm and lift up each of their campers allowed the reflections that were seen by each individual to be fully realized by seeing the true image of God the way that it was intended to be seen – one of hope, one of love and one of a positive self-worth. We need that in today’s world and it was amazing to see God working in that way.
Maybe it is time that we all sat around a picnic table, thought about the good things that God has blessed our lives with while surrounding ourselves with people that will be there to lift us up and love us when we need it most. If we can find a community to do that, then we will begin to fully realize the image of God as it was truly meant to be. At Bethany Birches Camp, we intend to shaping the lives of the young people and the community we serve to fully see the person God made. I pray this will happen ongoing for generations to come!