Youth Turn to Camps for Christian Spiritual Growth

The Navigators are organizing students to go on summer training programs in the United States. Lasting eight to ten weeks, these programs combine worship, study, and service, and give the students a chance to work at camps while studying the Bible.

According to Steve Rugg, Director of Admission for the Collegiate Ministry, the purpose of the summer training program is "to have students in an environment that fosters a high rate of spiritual growth."

The students experience a "tremendous boost" in their relationships with God, and they are "more motivated to share the gospel" after spending a lot of time in the Word and being encouraged by each other, said Rugg.

Research has documented the exodus of American youth from church. They have turned to Christian camps, summer missions projects, music worship festivals, and the like for a relationship with God.

"Many of the mainline churches are seeing a lot of decline and many are closing," explained Rugg. "Even in evangelical circles, the churches are dying because 20 something's and students in particular are looking for something they can find other than church."

"There are some people who want a relationship with God but they don't want the baggage of what the church wants for them. A lot of students love nontraditional environments to explore their faith," he explained.

Rugg said there is the danger that the nontraditional includes non-Christian spirituality.

A survey released by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that affiliation with mainstream religions is declining while spirituality is increasing.

"Ten years ago, the spiritual interest level on campuses was much lower than it is now. The students were much more skeptical than today. They didn't even want to explore what Jesus is or the gospel, but God has really changed the atmosphere," said Rugg.

However, that doesn't limit the type of spirituality.

"Spirituality is huge on campus," said Rugg, "but more often than not, they fall into pagan religions. We want to get them into groups where we can interact honestly about who Jesus is."

"Though students have a low view of Christianity as an organized religion, they tend to have a high view of Jesus. We try to focus on who is Jesus and what he was like and how does it make a difference for us."

Believing that study of the Word will enable transformation, the Navigators developed summer training programs to hold students' attention for longer durations and they are seeing a faster rate of Christian spiritual growth.

"The key strategy is get them to interact over the Bible. The Bible explains and defends itself, and transforms people's lives," said Rugg.

By focusing on Jesus and the meaning of his life, Navigators are churning out students who enter ministry and missions. This year, Navigators have 100 new staff, most of whom are straight out of college.

The summer training programs have grown from only one to eight, with two of them having been added just this year.

The Navigators campus ministry has also experienced growth. In just 46 campuses in 1995, there are now 160 campuses, a three-time increase.