The main reason the Heartland District ’s ARISE summer internship we offer for students at Camp Hickory has proved to be so formative to participants in the past several years is that it is a program rooted in our belief for well-rounded immersion discipleship.
That has meant ensuring that the young adults’ two months of serving at camps on our 47-acre campground just outside Chicago are a shaping experience, as opposed to what we would jokingly call a poor-paying summer job. We are not just looking for warm bodies to fill roles, but individuals simply ready to be available for God. We want them not only to be stretched in hands-on ministry as they serve in a variety of ways, but also encouraged to grow spiritually—from personal daily devotions to weekly group classes and one-on-one mentoring.
With several hundred campers from second grade through high school passing through Camp Hickory during the summer, plus a week-long camp focused on special needs campers, there are plenty of opportunities for interns to learn new skills and engage in servant leadership. Each week is different, so they are constantly engaging in new situations and challenges.
Personal development in each intern is as equally important as the leadership and life skills we focus on. That doesn’t just happen, though. Developing young leaders requires intentionality, which in turn means individual attention and time. But this kind of mentoring also isn’t limited to a select few. We encourage everyone from camp program staff to pastors and leaders of visiting churches to be looking for ways they might invest in these young leaders.
Despite the differences between Millennials and Generation Z, I have experienced that they both desire to be invested in through authentic relationship with mentors.
It has been interesting to see how creating this kind of environment allows God to speak into young people’s lives in a fresh way. It’s not unusual for interns to arrive with one sense of calling or plan of action in mind, only for them to have discovered a whole new direction by the end of summer. Some return to Camp Hickory for a second summer, becoming small group leaders for the incoming interns.
I believe this kind of immersion discipleship approach can be adapted for a local church setting, just as ARISE takes many of the elements of the Emerging Leader Network —emphasizing investment across head, heart and hands—and fits them to the context of Camp Hickory.
Despite the differences between Millennials and Generation Z, I have experienced that they both desire to be invested in through authentic relationship with mentors. It’s more than just giving advice; they want to know you’re “all in” with them. This isn’t just limited to those in formal leadership; anyone with life experience and a heart for the next generation can choose to champion and encourage young leaders.