Christian camp more than s'mores and games - it's about changing lives

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
One of the youth groups attending a GO TELL Camp pauses during activities to take a photo for folks back home.

ATLANTA, Georgia (Christian Examiner) – More than 100,000 teenagers and their leaders from churches nationwide have participated in one of the life-changing weeks of GO TELL Student Camps led by Evangelist Rick Gage for more than 25 years.

Over this time, thousands upon thousands of youth have made commitments to Christ at one of these summer events, including those who have responded to God's call to a career in full-time Christian service, Gage said.

"When you've got more than 35 million teenagers, like we do in America today, and 90 percent are unchurched, just within the youth community alone you have a mission field," Gage said. "If you study the history of revivals and spiritual awakenings, there's never been a move of God where it did not begin with young people.

"It breaks my heart that fewer than 10 percent of American young people are involved in a Bible-believing church," the evangelist continued. "So many churches have lost their passion for souls. The need to reach the lost has never been greater."

Gage, with a coaching background and a heart for aimless youth, had the vision in 1989 to launch an evangelistic youth camp ministry: great preaching, powerful testimonies, incredible worship and a high-impact recreation program, all for the purpose of changing each camper's life to become dynamic witnesses for Christ.

The dates for 2015 GO TELL Student Camps are June 22-26 and June 27-July 1 at Toccoa, Georgia, and July 6-10 at Nacogdoches, Texas.

"If you give me a bunch of lost and uncommitted students for a week at camp, when they get on their bus to go home, I sincerely believe their hearts will be right with God," Gage told Christian Examiner. "Teenagers are tired of playing games. Their world is falling apart and they want answers. They have an incredible need to be led, challenged and empowered for the cause of Christ."

City-wide evangelistic crusades in America and abroad are among the major thrusts of GO TELL Ministries. Outreaches during the crusades include Gage's nationally-acclaimed character-building On Track school assemblies that have reached more than 2 million students across America.

Gage has been described by the Associated Press as the "small town Billy Graham" because Gage fills football stadiums just as full as the internationally-known evangelist did in larger venues during his heyday. Gage's difference, as AP says, is that he goes to "rural America."

Gage goes to cities with fewer than a half-million people, sometimes smaller than 2,000, and leads dozens of churches within a 30-mile radius to work together in unity to reach the unconverted with the Gospel message that God loves them unconditionally.

"Not only do we want to get people saved, we want to get them discipled ... to carry out the main task of the Great Commission," the evangelist said. "God has given us, the church, a job, and that job is to be winning people to Jesus. God has no hands but our hands; God has no feet but our feet; God has no tongue but our tongue to share the good news."

This is the message Gage delivers to leaders when asked about bringing a GO TELL crusade to their city.

"We want to focus on towns where there is a remnant of people who have been praying for a spiritual awakening, a revival," Gage said. "God works through His people praying.

"We want to come alongside local churches and partner with them to reach the people in their area for Christ," the evangelist continued. "The goal is to have them come together in unity for the sole purpose of reaching the unsaved in that community. Those two words are key: together and unity."

Bobby Welch, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is among many who believe God continues to use evangelistic crusades.

"I believe evangelistic crusades are not obsolete, but rather, 'Back to the Future,' and the very thing the church needs in this century," Welch said. "The church is the place people go out from, not into. As soon as people understand that concept, the world will explode with evangelism."

Skip Evans, chairman of a GO TELL crusade in Georgia, said he found the four-night event to be a powerful witness of God's power.

"Everywhere I go people are still talking about what the Lord did and our hearts are filled with gratitude," Evans said. "I truly believe the impact of this crusade will have far-reaching results and will be felt for years to come."

A young woman from Kentucky sent a gift to GO TELL Ministries recently, and included a note: "I was saved in Somerset, Kentucky, at the crusade on 9.24.14," she wrote. "I know my name is in God's book of life. He has blessed me so much and Rick Gage I thank you for postponing your father's funeral to help save so many souls in Pulaski County."

For more information about GO TELL Ministries, see