In just a few days I will be in the snowy woodlands of Northern Michigan with nearly 100 teenagers. We’ll play silly (and gross) games, tube down an icy hill and watch as the underdeveloped teenage brain thinks it is a good idea to venture back and forth between the artic climate outdoors and the steamy indoor pool.
More import, these teens will be given opportunities to make choices. Some will decide its time for them to choose to listen to music with a better message, admit they struggle with pornography and some will even decide to follow Christ as their savior for the first time. Camp provides the perfect context to make decisions like these. When you are four hours away from your home, school and the struggles you’re facing and find yourself surrounded by fellow believers and compassionate adults, its easier to hear the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart. Couple this environment with the resolution-declaring New Year season and you have a recipe for successful change.
But what about the rest of the year?
I am all for resolutions and declarations but the truth is that many times they don’t stick. You’ve heard it before, most people give up on their New Year’s Resolution in about two weeks. Another report by Forbes magazine showed that only about 8% of people actually achieve their resolution. I don’t have any statistics on it, but I would imagine the decisions teenagers make at camps are fairly similar. Now before you angrily comment “I made a commitment at camp and I achieved it.” let me say, congratulations! I’m happy for you but you are the minority. You see, many of the commitments and resolutions that will be made this year will be re-do’s.
Just like mine.
Last year at winter camp I made three choices. The first, that I would start tithing 10% of my paycheck, exercise and read my Bible more. These will likely be the same three things that I commit to do again. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t ‘blow it’ by any means. I actually made a lot of progress in these areas; I read several books of the Bible in their entirety, tithed on the majority of my income and exercised until about November when I more or less gave up on it somewhere in the midst of busyness.
We have to understand that what is ‘easy’ to declare in a camp environment isn’t always as easy to live out 7 months later when life happens. The good news is that we serve the God of do-overs. The Bible tells us that Jesus died for us ”while we were yet still sinners” (Romans 5:8) He died for us in the midst of life. He didn’t wait for us to have it all together first or even for His own disciples to understand what He was doing. He simply loved us right where we were.
He of course calls us to change too, telling most of the people He encountered, ‘Go and sin no more’ but at the same time He is all too familiar with the weaknesses of our humanity. Some of the biggest reason these resolutions fall apart are due to lack of accountability and unrealistic goals. This provides a perfect opportunity for the adults in the lives of teenagers to step in. Can you imagine? If every teenager had an adult in the moment to help them think about their goals, plan them out and dream and then that same adult have a relationship throughout the year reminding, encouraging, pointing toward the goal, having mini ‘do-overs’ and re-commitments throughout the nuances of life.
Then when the next year comes, decide if its time to pick new areas or perform another ‘do over’. You see, I’m not picking the same goals again because of failure, I’m picking them because I want to master these areas before moving on to new ones. How much better off it would be if we could all (teenagers and adults) see do-overs as strides towards attainment rather than the result of failures!