How Youth Workers Can Avoid Camping-like Tendancies

Primary Audience – Fellow Youth Pastors/youth workers
Secondary Audience – Anyone Who Wants to Eavesdrop

You may have heard by now that Harold Camping has updated his doomsday to October 21st. There are a few things that this Camping hype was good for. One is the needed conversation about the return of Jesus. There is a lot of fear and bad theology out there and it was good to identify and hopefully offer something in the midst of the hoopla. So while there are numerous annoying aspects to these doomsday predictions, there are some excellent opportunities for conversations as well. The second benefit is all the great jokes we got to laugh at.

But that’s not the point of the post. As youth pastors, we all have the potential to take ourselves too seriously. We could spend another post just on that line. There are many reasons ranging why  from responding to the perceived disrespect to lack of self-awareness to our anticipated entitlement to the sincere attempt at addressing problems in the Church. Certainly these things are not limited to our profession but I have found that anytime one is competing for attention and attendance, these demons creep up.

Enter what we can learn from Harold Camping. Clearly, he took himself too seriously and obviously this is not a recent development for him. In a previous post I asked if he was delusional or deceitful (and I still think it’s a bit of both), but I think he is motivated by wanting to be remembered as a significant figure in the Church. He wants fame like Billy Graham (I mean the name of his ministry is a rip-off of Dobson right?) and I speculate some of this outlandish behavior is a cry for that. Clearly he is not self-aware and has no one in his life that can help with constructive criticism here.

Now, I don’t really know any youth workers who can compete with the scale of Camping’s hysteria but I have seen damage caused my unchecked egos, a lack of self-awareness and the hurt caused by desperate acts. Even at our seemingly most sincere moments, the desire to want to be remembered and regarded as important voices in the lives of our students can turn against ourselves and those we hope to serve if we are not Spirit-led.

Here are a few thoughts on what we can learn from Harold Camping.

1. We carry all of our unresolved issues throughout our lives. But worse, they mutate to uglier disorders that will cause more hurt as we age.
We must pray for strength to confront the issues in our lives, surround ourselves with godly people and be diligent in spiritual formation.

2. There is a tendency to misuse the Bible to forward our own agendas thereby polluting its message of salvation, redemption and hope.
We must read the Scriptures intelligently, faithfully, and humbly.

3. Even with sincere attitudes of wanting to see change, increase numbers and impact, all leaders/speakers have the potential of objectifying their audiences/listeners. When this happens, we have betrayed our calling and betrayed those we claim to be serving.        
We must remember the possible consequences to our words and actions and must be sure that our intentions are Christ-like and void of personal agenda.

4. It’s one thing to predict who your favorite sports team winning a championship and it’s another thing to guess the gender of a unborn baby but never publicly predict anything apocalyptic. Never. And should you be stupid enough to do it once, don’t do it again and again and again and …

5. Anyone got anything for number 5?


  1. What up Tim! Hey just in case anyone’s wondering, your not talking about actual tent style camping. Yeah I’m not ashamed to admit that’s what I thought you were talking about from your title. But great thoughts man, thanks for sharing them and giving some great stuff to think about!

  2. Rob I miss you. Perhaps I should have used “Harold” to modify – lol – fair point. Thanks for reading, let’s grab coffee/lunch some time. Hope all is well.

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