Vision180 interviewed Connor Stace, a TeenStreet coach, to get his perspective on Christian camping.
You’ve been involved a fair bit in the camps at TeenStreet; what exactly has your role been?
Well, it was really the first youth camp I got involved in. This is my seventh year with TeenStreet. I’ve done four years as a teen, one as a Gappie―which is in the middle between a teenager and an actual leader on the camp―and then I’ve done a whole year as a leader; they call it a ‘coach’. So I’ve gone through basically every part of the camp thus far and it’s been pretty cool.
You first got involved in Grade 9, right?
Yep, that’s correct. It was through the chaplain at my school and the RE teaching there. I went to a public school and the chaplains got alongside me. They were always chatting to me when they could. They were also teaching RE at the school and sharing the Christian faith through that. Eventually they got me to come along to camp. They convinced me and my mum that I should be at this TeenStreet basically. They presented it as a youth camp for teenagers. Me, being a young teenager, back then, thought it sounded pretty awesome. I ended up going along and–yeah–it was different to anything I’d ever experienced. I hadn’t really experienced a Christian camp like that before. Hearing the Gospel was life-changing in a sense. Still it took me a few years to really wrap my head around the whole idea but each time I went to TeenStreet I would hear the Gospel really clearly and it would just keep chipping away at me.
Did you have any hesitations about going?
Yeah. You know, “Christian camp” and ‘public school’ = hard combination. It wasn’t really cool to be big about your faith. I remember when I was in year 9, I came back from camp and I was telling my friends: ‘Oh man, this is the coolest thing.’ And all my friends were like: ‘What are you talking about, man?’
It was really challenging for the first two years because for me personally it wasn’t a big, cool thing to be a Christian at my school.
But yeah, I kept going and I kept learning and the more I learnt the more I was like: hey, it doesn’t really matter about being cool! That’s not what life’s about, it’s not what the Christian faith is about. I guess I sort of matured through that.
Do you have anything to say to someone who may be in your shoes, perhaps hearing the Gospel for the first time but also being in a situation where Christian faith isn’t really big or cool?
I guess all I’d say is that it can be really tough especially when Christianity is shut down around you or people don’t think it’s cool. I know that sounds really on the surface level. But for teenagers that can be really hard because image is really big. What I’d say is give a camp like TeenStreet a go. If you have the time and the ability―or even if you can make the time―give it a go. It really did impact me, it really did change my life. It made me realise just how important God really is and just how much I need to give Him my whole life. And that He can change someone else’s life too!
“Being a Christian can be hard because image is really big”
That’s not just a teen thing either—You’ll always feel a bit of pressure from the world and you want to be able to impress people. But if you are reading this and you’re thinking, ‘Christian camps are aren’t my thing’ or ‘They’re too far away,’ then get involved in your local youth ministry or your local church. And If you don’t have a youth ministry at your church, BE the youth ministry.
TeenStreet is a ministry of Operation Mobilisation Australia (OM).
This year more than 500 people will be attending the 5-day TeenStreet camp in July at Gatton. It’s more than just a camp experience, it’s an opportunity to seriously grow in your faith as well as explore the possibility of overseas missions.
Maybe you’re ready for a challenge next holiday. Join TeenStreet or one of the many other camps across Australia and learn how to put your faith into action.