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Called Camp: For Youth with a Calling

The New Mexico Ministry Network has created a camp specifically for youth who feel God has placed a call upon their lives.

What does it mean to be called by God? Is God limited to calling a person to be a minister or into fulltime missions? What if a young person feels like God has a call on their life, but they don’t know exactly what that calling is? 

Good questions — and questions that Christian young people, including those in the Assemblies of God, struggle with regularly. 

Jeral Dickenson, who has been serving as the Student Ministries director for the Assemblies of God New Mexico Ministry Network for nearly 9 years, says young people are in need of the wisdom of those who have preceded them. 

Every year following children and youth camps, we would poll kids to learn how many made first-time decisions for Christ, recommitments to Christ, were baptized in the Holy Spirit, or felt God place a call on their lives,” Dickenson says. What we found was hundreds of kids each year saying they felt called, but they were unsure of exactly what that meant or what they should do.” 

As a result of this obvious struggle young people were experiencing in being able to connect to their call, about four years ago, Dickenson and the NM Ministry Network created a camp just for youth who believe God has a call on their lives. 

Our first year we offered Called Camp, we had an open invitation for any student, sixth grade and up to college-range,” Dickenson says. We had around 120 attend that first event.” 

The camp, which is a three-day event offered in November and coincides with school vacation, has grown a little each year, with 150 in attendance last year. It’s our goal to provide a high percentage of pastors and leaders who will come and connect with their students,” Dickenson says.   

Connecting pastors to students’ callings makes it easier for students and their pastors to engage in meaningful discussions and helps students fully discover and prepare for what they believe God is calling them to. 

Students and pastors are having conversations today that simply weren’t happening before,” Dickenson says. Through Called Camp, pastors and leaders become aware and can engage in conversations with youth about their calling, and can help them ‘connect the dots’ to their calling.” 

One of the greatest gifts we have in the Assemblies of God is when a leader uses his/her influence, authority, position, and resource to steward the next generation of leaders,” states Heath Adamson, senior director of National Youth Ministries. As Pentecostals, in light of Acts 2, older generations dream and younger generations have visions in order for sons and daughters to prophesy.” 

Although Dickenson finds most students who feel God has placed a call on their lives aren’t sure of the specifics of that calling, he says that the call can be specific such as being a pastor, teacher, or evangelist, or it could also be as general as God simply calling someone to be engaged and available. 

District leaders, ministers, and other youth leaders join with Dickenson to come up with topics for the camp, which often include sessions on women in ministry, church planting, defending one’s faith, and other topics that surround the basics of ministry and faith. 

However, Dickenson says there are three sessions that students have really responded to — panel discussions with Q&A, personality testing, and basic leadership assessments.   

Many people never stop to consider how their personality affects them and how personality influences what God might want to use them in,” Dickenson says. Anytime we’ve taught, had discussion panels, or offered personality testing, the kids could not get enough of it!” 

The leadership assessment also helps students see where their basic strengths and weaknesses are, while panel discussions allow students direct access to people such as missionaries, business leaders, and ministers with questions concerning their callings. 

But Called Camp is not just about downloading information — night services are spent focused on the Word of God and around the altars. We can give them a lot of information in the sessions during the day,” Dickenson explains, but there are things only God can do in those moments around the altar.” 

Although Called Camp hasn’t been established long enough to determine whether or not it’s having a significant impact on students following their call, Dickenson says what has been made clear is that students who attend Called Camp typically become more involved in AIM (youth missions trips), engage in Speed the Light (fundraising for missionaries), and participate in fine arts festival at a higher level than before attending the camp. 

And perhaps that’s an underlying secret to Called Camp being deemed a success, for what better way to hear the voice of God than by drawing closer to Him?

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.