Focus on Camp: Why a busy ministry executive dedicates time to a Christian camp

This article was published in CampSight.

On a breezy July day, the president of Focus on the Family Canada was on picturesque Anvil Island just off the British Columbia coastline. But he wasn’t there with his feet up.
Instead, clad in T-shirt and shorts, Terence Rolston was maneuvering a weed trimmer during his break between leadership training sessions and dinner at the 100-acre Daybreak Point Bible Camp.

His unassuming nature meshed with his love for young people and God as he and his wife, Joyce, a pharmacist, spent a week guiding youth through the camp’s Leaders in Training program.

“As much as I was blessed [at camp]…I want to give that opportunity to the youth of today and tomorrow,” Rolston says.

First a Camper
Rolston first attended Daybreak Point Bible Camp when he was nine years old, and continued to come back as a camper until his late teens. Not long after his camper days were over, he returned to Anvil Island again—this time as a volunteer leader.

“Though I was a Christian before I came to camp, I saw many of my peers come to Christ and was blessed to see some of my campers come to Christ,” he says. “I was immensely blessed by the broadening of my horizons…primarily in my involvement as a volunteer.”

His experience as a summer counselor and program staff member was made rich as he joined other young adults from varied backgrounds.

“It was a really uniting and powerful example of the body of Christ working together,” he says. “That was a powerful impact on my life.”

And it was at camp that the concept of leadership became real.

“The leadership at church is a little more established [than camp], and there are lots of older people to take leadership positions,” Rolston says. “Many of us [on staff] were probably involved in our churches, but we went perhaps from a role of being under a leader to being a leader.”

Moving Up
Roltson stepped away from camp for several years to pursue leadership opportunities in charitable organization work. After meeting his wife and starting a family, in 1997 he joined the finance department of Canada’s autonomous branch of the U.S.-founded Focus on the Family, based in Langley, British Columbia.

Later, he moved on to the executive vice president position. When the president resigned to pursue a career in politics, Rolston was tapped for the position, and began serving as the organization’s chief in January of 2005.

But amidst Rolston’s success, he hadn’t forgotten where he had learned some invaluable lessons: Bible camp. Four years ago, he stepped back into the ministry, coordinating the worship team for Daybreak Point’s Camp 1, which caters to 13- to 15-year-olds. In 2003, he and Joyce began codirecting the leadership program for older teens and 20-somethings.

And last May, compelled by the mission of the camp, Rolston accepted a position as chair of Daybreak Point Bible Camp Society’s board.

“I really believe that camp work is one of the premier evangelistic ministries in the developed world,” Rolston says of his decision to lead the board. “It is one of the remarkable ways God is working in the lives of young people to introduce them to Jesus Christ and to introduce them to the community of faith to which God-followers belong.”

Life Changing
Although he participates in Daybreak Point year round, Rolston values the hands-on ministry of camp a week of volunteer service affords. He appreciates “being in an atmosphere of camp that is tranquil and remote and focused on fellowship with God and one another.” It’s a unique opportunity, he says, “not only to serve the Lord but also have a retreat of sorts yourself.”

But the camp environment’s power is not merely in its beauty. Rolston has watched the unique setting and caring staff help people zero in on their life purpose and come face to face with the love of Christ. It is this—combined with the valuable lessons camp affords—that motivates Rolston and his wife to prepare young leaders for the opportunities and challenges of the ministry.

One of the challenges that Rolston focuses on is following up with campers after they get off the ferry and back onto the mainland. As a counselor, he found it difficult to keep in touch with his campers throughout the year. Now, he emphasizes to tomorrow’s counselors the import of connecting with youth and appropriately nurturing relationships after camp.

“I’ve really become convinced that partnerships between churches and camps are essential to follow-up,” he says.

As Rolston trains young people in other key areas of camp ministry, such as strengthening their faith, understanding campers’ needs, and maintaining safety, he challenges them—and others—to step out of their comfort zones and experience the same benefits he did during his early years of camp service.

“I would encourage those who are involved in churches to get involved in ministry experiences like camp outside their churches,” he says. “It is not only a ministry to the campers…but also to the volunteers who are involved…my own life [was] changed.”