Youth Pastor Jamie Dempster reflects on the lead up to Easter Camp 2021

Easter Camp 2021 was, for me, one of the most challenging, yet one of the most rewarding, times of the year so far. In February 2021 I was inducted as the Youth Pastor at Katikati Community Baptist Church. This is my first ministry job after completing my theological studies at Carey Baptist College. With Easter Camp just a couple of months away, I knew that I had to work hard get my youth group to come along to camp. This meant that every time I saw them at youth group and church on Sunday mornings I would give them camp registration forms and try to convince them to come along. Since they hadn’t heard about Easter Camp before there was some hesitation, not least because of the large size of the camp. As I was effectively starting a youth group in a church that hadn’t had one for a few years, I knew in my heart that Easter Camp was going to be a great way for relationship building.

When I was a teenager, Easter Camp was the place where I discovered God and the calling that He has placed on my life, so I know how important Easter Camp can be. Often, in the weeks leading up to Camp, I found myself praying to God that He would lead the teenagers that He wanted to come to camp. After a period of advertising Easter Camp to the teenagers, God gave me three girls to take to camp. Thankfully, after I had registered the girls for camp, everything came together quite easily. My girls had a blast at camp! They enjoyed watching the talent show every day after lunch, they had fun hanging out in the village, and they especially enjoyed Tribal Wars.

My youth girls came to camp as believers. So the theme of Easter Camp –  ‘All in’ – was a great one for them to learn about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. After camp, I got a text from the mum of one of the teenagers. She said that she’d talked to the girl’s grandmother who’d reported that her granddaughter had so much fun at Easter Camp and she’s been reading her Bible to her family and telling her friends how much fun youth group and church can be. Getting this text was a massive encouragement to me. As I finished reading that text, I thanked God for the impact that Easter Camp has had on this girl’s life.

One challenge that I faced at camp came during the response times in the evening sessions. My little youth group did not respond, so I thought that there was something wrong with me – that I wasn’t doing a good enough job for my girls. I was questioning myself as a youth pastor. Throughout the first half of camp, I had been trying to do everything perfectly. I was relying on my own strength instead of relying on God, and I was just so exhausted by Saturday night. During the worship on the Saturday night session, I remember just sitting down and crying because I was so tired, and I felt so lonely since I didn’t have any leaders come with me. I remember as I was crying, my youth group girls got around me and were comforting me and I remember God speaking to me quietly saying, “I’ve got you, I got you here and I can carry you through.” It was a nice reminder that even though at times I may feel lonely, God is still there with me in my loneliness. It was just what I needed to push me through the rest of camp.

I want to thank the youth pastors from the Baptist churches around the Bay of Plenty, Franklin Baptist and my friends who were at camp for their support. They offered to make me coffees during the day, they let my group use their electricity to charge our phones. But most importantly, they loved on my youth group, hung out with them, saved us seats if they got to the sessions before us and they helped make my youth group feel included and valued. So thank you to those churches and youth pastors and friends of mine. You were such a big help in making camp what it was for my youth group.