By Jerrod Baker

Growing up, the thing I looked forward to the most during the summer was going to church camp. I grew up attending Muskogee District Camp at Camp Egan in Tahlequah, Okla. Whenever I was younger, I thought it would be cool to be able to continue attending church camp as an adult. I would have never imagined that I would be given that opportunity as the youth director at Acts 2 United Methodist Church, a church I did not even know existed.

This summer, I was able to attend two camps with the students of Acts 2. While at both camps, I was able to see the Lord move in many ways. I saw God through the relationships built with the students, as well as through their worship of Him. The camps were great opportunities for the students to grow spiritually and further their walks with Christ. Witnessing God in action through the students facilitated my own spiritual growth.

Along with the two camps, I was able to watch the Lord move through a group of our senior high students in Memphis, Tenn., as we served alongside the staff at Service Over Self. I worked with one of our three teams all week and experienced the love of Christ through their conversations not only with one another, but also with those living in the community we were serving.

Camps and mission trips are some of the most important experiences for the development of our youth and for their walks with Christ, but those experiences alone are not enough to sustain their faith. Often, students talk about having a “mountaintop experience” at camp and then having a post-camp low. I remember many experiences like this after going to church camps as a student myself. My goal as we move into our fall programming this year is to provide opportunities for our students to grow and experience God throughout the school year.

When I was a youth, much of my personal growth happened when I was in discussion with my peers about what it means to be a Christian. Small groups were the perfect facilitator of these discussions, and that is one of the reasons we focus heavily on students plugging into small groups. These small groups are led by adult leaders who are invested in the students’ lives and give students a safe place to talk freely about life. These mentors are a highlight of our youth ministry because we can see strong relationships forming between the adult leaders and the students that are life-changing.

Along with our Wednesday evenings, I am looking forward to our monthly Youth Service Days. These are opportunities for our students to go out and be the hands and feet of Christ through their work in the community. We partner with local non-profit organizations to serve and bless their staff and clients. Some of our previous service days have involved serving at Feed the Children, the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank and even caroling at Epworth Villa. The reason I enjoy these experiences is not only the work that we accomplish, but also the relationships that are established. While on the job, the students are able to get to know the people they are serving, as well as their adult leaders and one another. For me, it is an example of what it means to be the Church and further God’s Kingdom.

My experience as the youth director at Acts 2 UMC so far has been a transformational one. I get to witness God at work through the lives of our students and our adult leaders, and I am looking forward to what God has in store for our youth this upcoming school year.

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