In early June, middle school youth groups from four Charis Fellowship churches in Ohio gathered at Camp Cotubic in Bellefontaine, Ohio, for the inaugural Ignite Camp. The theme for the camp was based on Matthew 5:11–16 and focused on igniting students’ faith in Jesus and igniting them to do ministry where the Lord has placed them.
Churches that attended were Bellefontaine Grace Church (Daniel O’Kane, pastor) led by Nick Mazza, Marysville Grace Brethren Church (Clancy Cruise, lead pastor) led by Tyler Kramer, Grace Polaris Church (Mike Yoder, lead pastor) led by Dave Nicodemus, and Movement Church (Mark Artrip, lead pastor) led by Blake Cruise, totaling 87 students and leaders.
Ignite was born out of a desire to provide a meaningful camp experience that would impact middle schoolers on their level. “Middle School is a very impressionable age and blending the word, worship, and fun is an important thing to do,” said Tyler, who had the idea for the camp along with Nick, who said, “I want to fight to reach these students early with Jesus and the Gospel.” Dave and Blake quickly got on board, and the four youth pastors planned the camp.
The campers attended daily sessions where worship was led by a band from Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., and the speaker was Joel Trainer, lead pastor at Three Creeks Church, a Charis Fellowship congregation in Gahanna, Ohio. Joel said, “I was excited to get to share with these students because some of my favorite moments with God were when I was in middle school. I believe in middle school students — and their ability to change the world.”
The groups also engaged in activities such as a high ropes course, climbing wall, zip line, giant swing, fishing, and organized games including a giant slip and slide (with slime). During their downtime, campers had the option of participating in swimming, water trampoline, blob, spikeball, gaga ball, 9-square, and basketball.
“For us, we saw a great sense of community and camaraderie come out of it,” Tyler said, “and our students are starting to dig deeper in their faith.”
“Over and over, I felt lead by God to tell those students, ‘Great things happen at camp.’ Not only do students come home with great friendships and great memories, but God does great things in the lives of students who unplug from their day to day lives and get away with God at camp,” Joel recalled. “I had the chance to sit in the front row, watching God do great things in students’ lives!”
In addition to being a spiritually enriching and fun week, the planning team wanted “to show the students how they are a part of a larger fellowship and how we are a family working together,” according to Nick. The attenders, speakers, and worship leaders were all connected to the Charis Fellowship. Momentum Ministry Partners, a national organization of the Charis Fellowship, assisted with registration, and their director of ministry operations, Eric Miller, was a guest speaker.
Reflecting back on the week, Dave said, “I have always believed that middle school students are capable of so much more than we give them credit for or even the opportunity to express. This week not only reinforced that belief but raised it even higher. I was continually impressed with the high level of spiritual conversations we would have after sessions and the strong desires they had to make real, tangible changes in their lives to follow Jesus more. This week did exactly what we hoped it would—ignite in students a greater desire to love and follow Jesus.”
All four youth pastors are looking forward to seeing how God uses this camp to change lives. With their inaugural year in the books, the team is looking to next summer and welcoming even more campers and churches. Connect with Dave here, Nick here, Tyler here, and Blake here.