LIVINGSTON Organizers say there’s nothing like Lead Camp anywhere in the nation.
It’s a week-long, three-track, practical-skills-plus-discipleship camp that equips teenagers to return to their church and immediately become involved in the leadership of the church.
“It’s really changed my life because it helped me realize worship is a lot more than just standing in front of people and singing or playing guitar,” said Jacob Cates of First Baptist Church of Porter, a high school senior who has been to Lead Camp each of the last five years. “It’s leading people to the throne room of God, to worship him.”
Worship is one track; technology—sound, lighting, video, computers—is another; and ministry leadership is another. This year the camp is to take place July 9-13 at Lake Tomahawk Christian Retreat Center in East Texas.
“Lead Camp has helped me see the importance of being a biblical leader in everything I do,” Cates said.
Lead Camp is for all teens, said Jeremy Rogers, pastor of Arlington Park Baptist Church in Arlington and co-director of the camp. He has taken youth or been a leader at the camp for at least a dozen years.
Of the seven teens Rogers took when he was a student pastor in 2007, two have now graduated from seminary and are serving in the pastorate; two married ministers; “and all the rest are very active in their church as elders or lay leaders,” Rogers said.
Lead Camp has a disciple-making, mentor-based structure. It starts with a teaching time that “sets the tone for the whole day and the whole camp,” Rogers said. “A full-blown, camp-wide worship service ends the day.”
In between, students go with either the worship, technology or leadership tracks, which might be children’s ministry, youth ministry, or pastoral ministry. Afternoons also include recreation time: water activities on Lake Tomahawk, a climbing wall, sand volleyball, two 1,000-foot zip lines, and more.
“It was probably the neatest thing I’ve ever done,” said Brock James of Calvary Baptist Church in Nacogdoches; he went to Lead Camp last year for the first time. “The second to the last night, [the speaker] challenged us about our testimony and made us think about what we believed in. Then people were coming up to you that you’ve only met once, willing to talk to you about their life, just connecting through Jesus. It was a powerful night.”
James chose the leadership track, where apologetics and writing personal testimonies were main elements, and where he learned “how to lead, where you should lead, and what’s your job as a leader.”
Since returning home from Lead Camp last July, James has started two Bible studies: one at church for teens, and one at school.
Lead Camp is a skills-building camp rather than a basic instruction camp, explained Curtis James, camp director, minister of music at Calvary Nacogdoches, and Brock James’ dad. The worship track is designed to provide the tools and training necessary for students with band/praise team experience to plan and lead worship and improve instrumental and worship leadership abilities.
The worship technology track will have somewhat-experienced students leaving camp with hands-on knowledge of how to better use sound, lighting, video projection and computer equipment in their church.
The leadership track is designed to teach Christian leadership principles, apologetics, personal discipleship, evangelism and developing a Christian world view.
Lead Camp is for all ninth- through twelfth-grade students, Rogers said. “We have students come who have never done leadership. In the end, as Christians we’re all called to lead through our service in the church.”
Experienced practitioners lead each track, and students put the principles they’re learning into practice each night in the evening worship service. They also fan out to area churches to practice new skills during midweek services.
Cost for Lead Camp: $199/camper.
“I’ve never found another camp able to do what we do,” James said. “We want students to engage with someone who is doing the ministry already, so they can apply it in their own church.
“It’s about teaching concepts and giving the students tools to serve in their own churches,” James continued. “What makes the camp really effective is the quality of the leaders.”
Ken Lasater, minister of music at First Baptist Church in Bowie, started Lead Camp in 2003, when he was on staff with the SBTC.
“Most leadership camps invest in equipping the students to accomplish and achieve more in their personal life,” Lasater told the TEXAN. “I was interested in equipping them to strengthen the ministries of their church.”
Student pastors are urged to bring their high school students to Lead Camp.
“I want to make sure student pastors understand the benefit of sending their students and coming with their students,” Rogers said. “The student pastor actually is training his/her own leadership team by bringing them here.”