Middle and high school students from across North Carolina took a fresh look at some of the most well-known teachings of Jesus throughout the summer as part of summer youth weeks held at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell.
“Re-imagine” was the theme of youth weeks, which drew nearly 6,500 teenagers from more than 270 churches to the North Carolina coast over the course of seven weeks in June, July and August. The theme verse was Psalm 78:1-2, “My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from old” (NIV).
“Most of the students have heard these parables that Jesus told,” said Merrie Johnson, senior consultant for youth evangelism and discipleship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC), who coordinates youth weeks for the state convention each year. “We’ve just tried to help the students dig into them a little deeper.”
Campers explored biblical themes like repentance and salvation from the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son from Luke 15:1-8. Forgiveness from the parable of the ungrateful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Loving and serving others from the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. And sharing the gospel from the parable of the sower in Luke 8:1-5.
Each week featured a different camp pastor, who unpacked the biblical, historical and cultural background of the passages and provided points of application through daily preaching during morning and evening services. Those principles were reinforced with the campers through worship, personal and small group devotions, and other related activities.
“In all of these parables, (Jesus) is teaching about the coming kingdom of God, and He’s given people this beautiful picture of what His kingdom is going to look like,” Trevor Atwood, lead pastor at Boro City Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., told campers during one of his messages at youth weeks. “Jesus tells stories to get people to re-imagine their idea of the kingdom of God.”
Over the course of the summer, more than 360 youth made a first-time decision to trust Christ as Savior, and nearly 900 more rededicated their lives to Him. Additionally, 15 answered a call to vocational ministry.
Johnson said she saw God move in other ways, as well.
“God moved mightily all summer and in ways that weren’t necessarily reflected in the number of decisions that were made here at camp,” Johnson said. “The change has been much deeper.”
One area where Johnson said she saw God working in the lives of students was related to the concept of biblical forgiveness.
“We spent a whole day emphasizing forgiveness, and that was perhaps the most moving aspect of the summer,” Johnson said. “Students have realized how unforgiveness keeps them from experiencing life with God and life with family and friends to the fullest.
“That’s been a moving thing to see and represents change at a deeper level than we’ve seen in the past.”
Campers also surpassed a major milestone in the on-site missions component of youth weeks. This year marked the eighth summer that campers have been packing meals that are delivered to Haiti, and 2018 marked the packaging of the 2 millionth meal. With each meal that is distributed in Haiti, the gospel is also presented.
Campers also gave more than $75,000 collectively to the youth weeks’ missions offering that covers the costs of delivering and distributing the meals in Haiti.
“Go, God!” Johnson said. “We’re not planning to stop.”