Summer camp: a week filled with competition, games, and campfires. Right?
Camp Conquest, a Grace Brethren retreat center in Denver, Pa., is a little different. During the summer, the camp serves 100-120 kids a week, ranging from age seven through high school. During these weeks, campers get to experience all of the classic camp activities that make a week in the woods unforgettable: sleeping in cabins, sitting around campfires, swimming, canoeing, and spending time with friends new and old. It even has a lot of the elements of a traditional Bible camp: chapel sessions, Bible memorization, and worship. But at Camp Conquest, the worship element takes on a whole new dimension. Several, actually.
“God has created this world and has placed us in it. And He’s given all of us the opportunity to worship Him through the experiences that He’s placed us in,” says Mike Gehlert, executive director of Camp Conquest since 2002 (pictured at right).
“If you take a ‘worship inventory,’ you find several different ways we worship God,*” he notes. “These include relational, intellectual, worship, activism, contemplation, serving, and creation.* In the typical church service, you only find two: corporate singing and preaching. At camp, we practice all seven.”
One of the seven isn’t usually found during a camp experience: service. This unique element of Camp Conquest’s program is also one of their most intentional. Partnering with nearby churches and youth centers, the camp offers several opportunities throughout the week for campers participate in service projects, worshipping God in a tangible, hands-on way, and living out his many commands to help others in need.
“Our campers are intentionally learning to serve and go beyond themselves,” notes Gehlert. “We’ve gone to the nearby city of New Holland and joined a local youth center to throw a block party for them. We have put together humanitarian aid packets for GAiN Warehouse (a ministry of CRU), and all of our programs include an onsite service project.”
The camp also hosts a discipleship training program called STACC, Service Training At Camp Conquest, which involves one week of “boot camp” and two weeks of apprenticeship. In many ways, Gehlert considers it the heartbeat of his ministry.
“The successful STACC program brings young people to camp, equips them to serve others so as to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). Our goal is that they discover what their gifts are and launch them back into their local church,” he says.
Gehlert believes that a camp experience like Camp Conquest can be one of the most effective tools for evangelism and discipleship. Through a simple experience like the one offered at Camp Conquest, young people are able to experience worship in an entirely new way: one that integrates the physical world and the spiritual world, offering up hands and heart to worship their Creator.
“A camp experience removes you from distractions and instead, you are surrounded by God’s creation, His word, His people, and the simplicity of a campfire putting it all together. We have a week, but in that week, 24/7, we’re living life together. Walking shoulder to shoulder. God’s spirit works in a way that is not possible elsewhere.”
Summer Camp is not just in summer. Camp Conquest in Lancaster County, Pa., engages over 2,000 volunteers year-round (with over 30,000 hours) as together they worship the Creator by serving their community and the local church by reaching this generation of children for Christ. Click here to check out an informational video, and visit their website, campconquest.org, to find out how you can be a part of this exciting ministry of evangelism and discipleship in the camp setting. Learn more about the other camps affiliated with our fellowship here, and stay tuned for more stories and opportunities!
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.