By Gordon Govier

Chapter Camp Changes Lives

May is the month when a whole year of campus ministry may finally bear fruit in the life of a student. The change often happens at chapter camp, a week away from distractions after classes end and final tests are completed.

Chapter camp is held at about 17 different locations around the country. Sometimes several regions converge on one camp, such as InterVarsity’s historic Cedar Campus, on the shore of Lake Huron in Upper Michigan. More than 1800 students will stay at Cedar Campus and two overflow locations over a period of six weeks for what’s called Chapter Focus Week.

Toah Nipi, another InterVarsity Retreat and Training Center in New Hampshire, is busy with chapter camps for students from New England schools for two weeks in May, and two additional weeks in August, before the start of the fall semester. A total of 340 students have registered.

Names for Chapter Camp

The New York/New Jersey region is sending 850 students to camp in upstate New York over a three week period this month. Chapter camp in New York/New Jersey is called Basilea, which means God’s Kingdom. Other regions also have unique names for chapter camp, such as Focus Week in Florida—held on the campus of Southeastern University—and Rec Week in the Red River Region of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas.

The three regions along the west coast divide up chapter camp type activities differently with less emphasis on the week at the end of the school year. One of the constants across the country though is intensive Bible study, typically an InterVarsity-style in-depth, inductive investigation of the gospel of Mark called Mark Manuscript. A number of additional tracks are offered to help students grow in their spiritual development and leadership skills.

Five Change Perspectives

What do InterVarsity staff observe in their students during chapter camp? Andy Liimatta, a Campus Staff Member at Northern Michigan University listed what he appreciates about Chapter Focus Week at Cedar Campus: 

1. Although students now have smart phones, there are relatively few distractions: no outside jobs and no outside classes.  So students are able to more freely practice spiritual disciplines (particularly in prayer and community).
2.  The curriculum (tracks) centers around witnessing communities and the Four Loves, which is part of InterVarsity’s Purpose Statement.  I feel that no matter which track a student takes they will come away with more of an understanding and a passion for our mission on campus.
3. Through living arrangements, chapter prayer, and meal times, the students in a chapter spend a lot of quality time together.
4. Students see proper use of Scripture modeled.  There is great exposition of Scripture passages by the speakers (expositors meet earlier in the spring to prepare together). A student in a track such as Mark’s Gospel or SGLT (Small Group Leadership Training) gets to practice Bible study skills. And each track intentionally uses Scripture and engaging teaching styles (not just lecture).
5. Chapters with a leadership team at chapter camp have a great opportunity to spend significant time together to think about the InterVarsity vision for their campus, plan for the next year together, pray together for the campus and the chapter, and engage in other team building activities.

Last year more than seven thousand students attended an InterVarsity camp, almost one fifth of all InterVarsity students. InterVarsity’s presence on campus is a key to our ministry, but time away from campus can also be life changing. Like commencement, another important May event, chapter camp opens the door to a new stage in life.

Southeast Region Chapter Camp 2014 slide show