Last Wednesday night, HDC’s student ministries teams provided their annual camp-preview night, designed to get our kids geeked up about the opportunity that they’ll have once again this year, not to just go to summer camp, but to invite their pre-believing friends to go with them!

(Per Network Magazine, Volume 24, Number 1) A few years ago, a team of professors and students from seven Christian colleges and grad schools across the country interviewed 70 young people between the ages of 16 and 20, students who placed their faith in Jesus sometime during the previous two years. The interviewers took detailed notes as the kids were asked to tell them “everything you can remember about your experience of first choosing to become a follower of Jesus Christ.”

Their most common reflections were about a camp experience. They were then asked, “Of all the special influences that you just described about your decision to become a follower of Christ, which one would you identify as most important? Their top influences, ranked in order of importance:

1. A friend’s non-verbal testimony

2. A friend’s verbal testimony

3. Their parents

4. Personal turmoil

5. Their youth leader’s non-verbal testimony

6. Other family members

7. Dating relationships

8. Their youth leaders’ verbal testimony

Their greatest memories were of camp, because that’s where the door to eternity was opened so wide for them. But the reason they even went to camp was because of their friends.

That study aligns perfectly with my own research, which so clearly indicates that, of all the factors that are involved in pointing a pre-believer to Jesus, 95% of the time, the number one factor is a member of their oikos, someone who both displayed and discussed faith with them (or, in the vernacular of the research teams who interviewed those kids, people who communicated their faith in Jesus both non-verbally and verbally).

I’ve personally presented that same question to hundreds of audiences and tens of thousands of people. Statistically, if you have at least 10,000 individuals in your sampling, the margin of error shrinks to less than 1%. (I have at least 20 times that—just sayin’.) Different denominations, different countries, different cultures, different ages, different worship styles, different everything—yet I always get the same response to that question. No audience has been an exception. Evidently, those 70 kids weren’t exceptions either.

Those researchers’ takeaways were pretty obvious, based on what they learned. And this was their advice to local churches:

1. Equip young people to articulate their faith in Jesus to their non-believing friends.

2. Make a big deal about camp.

3. Challenge young people to invite non-believing friends to camp.

That’s why I am so crazy proud of HDC’s ministries to young people. Thanks to all of you leaders out there, both staff and volunteer, for everything you do to put these kids, our kids, in a position to not only know Jesus, but to learn about their personal mission on His behalf.

And thanks to those of you who give sacrificially to our summer camp “Impact Offering,” making it possible for kids to even be able to afford to go.

Last year, after hearing about a young man whose family didn’t have the money to send him to camp, one of our families gave an anonymous gift, in order to give him that chance. As it turned out, the donor also answered the bell to be a counselor during that same week. He had no idea that one of the kids who would be in his own cabin that week was the recipient of his own generosity—at least not until the end of the week, when the boy shared with the rest of the cabin how he had opened his heart to Christ on the last night of camp. And then the boy confessed how he wouldn’t have even been able to be at camp if it was not for the kindness of someone in the church. Putting two and two together, that “someone” had to excuse himself from the share-time, go outside into the night and have a good cry.

It’s more than an offering, bro. It’s an impact!

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