About the morning of the fifth day of a week long camp or mission trip, you start to hear students talking about how they don't want to go home. For some it is the fact they don't want to leave the friends they only see at camp. For some it is the fact that life at home is hard. For many it is that they don't know what to do with the changes God is doing in their lives.
I remember being the same way when I was younger. I was at a high school week of camp and I said to one of my family leaders that I didn't want to go home. His response has stuck with me. I wrote it in my journal and refer back to it almost every summer.
"You know sometimes I think that is exactly what Satan loves to hear. It is easy to live for Christ when you are at camp, at a youth conference, or anywhere you are surrounded by people who are following Christ. But if we were to all stay here, who will tell others about Jesus? Who will share with those at home what we love about this place?"It is easier to live your life centered on Christ when you are surrounded by people who are doing that same. It is even easier when your whole day focuses on studying, learning, worshiping, serving and breathing Jesus. That is exactly what happens at camp and on mission trips. The reality is that you are changed after a week long experience like that and the home you are returning to might not have changed at all. I think that is the root of the problem.
For the past few years, I've been intentional about helping students understand that and prepare to face the return home. I don't know how helpful these have been for others but some of them have been very helpful to me.
- Journal about the changes God is doing in your life, especially any commitments you've made, and refer back to it through out the school year. It can be easy to slide back into the old you and forget about commitments you have made.
- Find some accountability. Yea it is a big word but really all it means is find someone who is willing to walk the journey with you. Someone who can lift you up and encourage you when you get down. Someone who can push you when you start to lose your focus.
- Continue to surround yourself with people who are walking the same direction. I've had a significant number of students who tell me they don't go to church or attend youth group during the school year. The journey was not intended to walked alone. I've tried it. Doesn't work! Plug into a church family where you can be refueled and serve together.
- Don't stop your quiet times once camp/the mission trip is over. Even if you've never done a quiet time outside of one of these settings, continue the discipline when you get home. Will it be hard? Probably. Set a realistic goal for yourself, ones that stretch you but are attainable. Set aside the specific time in you schedule just like you do at these events. Be patient with yourself.