Mixed Age Camp Creates Moments of Awe for All Ages

Mixed camp worship

First-ever combined camp unites junior high and senior high students for a week of worship, growth and discipleship

This summer, the North Texas Conference offered its first-ever mixed age camp, bringing both junior high and senior high youth together for a week at Bridgeport Camp and Conference Center.

Mixed camp breakfast“Mixed Age Camp was a dream that came from a few youth ministers who thought it would be nice to be able to go to one week of camp and have all the youth there,” said CJ Rice, minister with youth at FUMC McKinney and a camp director for the Mixed Age Camp.

Campers seemed to agree. Not only did the camp fill up faster than any other, it also left an unforgettable impact on campers and the leaders alike. “It ended up being more than we could have imagined,” Rice said.

According to Rice, the most challenging aspect was creating intentional spaces for each age group to experience growth in their own way. “It can be a little tricky catering to and creating spaces for both 12-year-olds and recently graduated 18-year-olds,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that all age groups felt seen, heard and appreciated.”

Directors placed campers in separate, age-based cabins, family groups, interest/discipleship groups and free time. The full group came together for meals, community gatherings and worship.

Youth saw the benefit of bringing differing age groups together for one camp experience. “[It] made it more fun for everyone to connect during worship times,” said junior high camper Vivian Jackson. For other campers, the age differences created a unique leadership experience.

Mixed camp juniorsOne senior high camper, Jorja Sipe, noticed one of the younger campers crying and asked what was wrong. The younger camper felt comfortable enough to open up to Sipe and befriended her. “She’s like my little sister now,” she said.

Moments like this were where the leaders of the camp saw God working through the senior high group. “As the week went on you would hear senior high Junior Counselors say they saw leadership in a middle school Junior Counselor or that a middle school Junior Counselor saw God at work through a senior high Junior Counselors,” Rice said. “It really was powerful to be a part of and I know this helped create the positive atmosphere we had throughout the whole camp.”

Rice noted that the differences were readily apparent in worship. “Their voices in harmony together was just beautiful to witness,” she said. “They rallied together to build a great worship service with a lot of care and intentionality, and it showed in the way the whole camp raised their voices in worship that night.”

Jackson and Sipe both echoed that feeling, saying that worship was where the camp experience came to a peak.

“It’s almost always powerful,” Rice said, “[but] I think it was probably one of the best worship services I have seen at camp!”

Published: Wednesday, July 12, 2023