SU Scotland has a long history of welcoming young people to experience the thrills and spills of a week-long Easter or summer residential activity holiday, commonly known as, and hereafter referred to as camp.
I'm sure that many of us will have at one time or another enjoyed the SU Scotland camp experience? The young people who attend our camps come from all walks of life; some with a solid grounding in their knowledge and experience of God and many for whom, sadly, the name of Christ has only been heard as a swear word in their home or at school.
It is the latter group of children, including those who might be described as socially disadvantaged, that SU Scotland is currently prioritising to reach with the Good News of Jesus in new and creative ways.
A language that all young people understand
One such way is through a medium and language that all young people understand; games and sport. We have seen a significant rise in bookings for SU Scotland's specialist camps providing opportunities for young people to spend a whole week honing the skills of something they are passionate about.
When I decided to offer a football camp for upper primary and lower secondary school children last summer, I had been inspired by the impact that a young parish assistant in my area, Alan Myles (now working at Alltnacriche), had been having in attracting youngsters to his church through football and thought that it was something that SU Scotland could replicate at a residential camp.
Bookings came in thick and fast and we were blessed with a team of football-crazy leaders and coaches. We use an SU resource called Champions Challenge to introduce the youngsters to the Bible and Jesus, with themes such as 'Jesus the Selector', 'Jesus the Physio' and 'Jesus the Substitute'. Football camp is a roaring success and we look forward to offering another two camps this summer at Lendrick Muir.
Through games and sport, we see that God has given us our environment and physical bodies to experience his creation. By encouraging young people to engage with the Bible both during and after their residential experience, there is a profound impact on young people being spiritually fit, just as they will be more physically fit.
Sport opens up the gospel
I wonder if it's the case that games and sport in particular are such a big part of everyday life for young people that concepts like being part of a team, following the rules of the game, valuing your fellow team members are useful hooks and parallels to understanding Gospel principles.
It has certainly been my experience that team games and challenges very often lend themselves to opening up the stories of Jesus, whom young people can readily identify with in the role of God's player-manager who came to select his own team of disciples and followers from very ordinary people such as themselves.
(This blog featured in the Spring 2012 edition of the Scottish Bible Society's Alive & Active magazine)