A youth camp song list

For the past few years I’ve been a leader at Übertweak, a Christian youth camp. In addition to being creative with technology, playing complex outdoor wide games, and becoming progressively more sleep deprived as the week goes on, each morning we set aside some time to focus on learning about who God is and what he’s done, and part of that is music. Next camp I’m the music team coordinator, so the task of choosing which songs we’ll sing has fallen to me. Song lists could seem quite incidental, but I think they’re important. There are many competing factors which make it tricky, so I thought I’d share how I chose the songs I did.

A Futurama Fry meme: Not sure if song about God / or boyfriend

The factors

Great words and music: This one should go without saying, but sadly it can’t. Colossians 3:16 says that we are actually to use songs to teach each other, so I wanted ones that had substance to them, with at least some specific Biblical content. Before choosing the final list I asked for suggestions from the other camp leaders for songs which focus on who God is and what he has done, so that if Fry came to camp he’d have no need for his trademark expression! Each Übertweak camp has a theme, so I also tried to find some which fit this one’s theme: God’s Awesome Plan.

Appropriate for campers: We have to be mindful of who we’re choosing songs for. In this context that means 12-17 year olds, some from Christian families and some not, some with a strong mature faith, some with a new faith and some with none. While we want to avoid Christian jargon if possible, it doesn’t means we should pitch down to the youngest campers; instead we should pitch up, it is a time for teaching after all. We also have to be careful with what I call “responsive” songs. Hillsong’s This is our God might be an appropriate song to sing in church, but at a camp with comparatively few strong Christians it would either disengage those who aren’t, or they may get swept along with and feel they must sing what their heart does not really believe.

A range of tempos and moods: This was the easiest factor. In addition to making a list of songs I also planned out a schedule for each day. We’ll start with some fast songs to wake everyone up, before moving towards slower contemplative ones.

Old favourites vs new hits: It’s hard to learn a large bunch of new songs at once, and though that may be unavoidable for some campers, I wanted to minimise it if possible. Out of the eleven songs on the list at least seven have been sung at previous camps. And as Übertweak is non-denominational I wanted to choose songs from a range of different Christian circles. (The list below has who I associate some of the songs with. Unfortunately no songs from Emu/AFES made the final list, though No Other Name by Trevor Hodge came close.) The camp schedule means we’ll be singing 22 songs in total. I wanted to give the campers a chance to learn the songs, so the new songs are introduced one per day, and almost all including the old ones are repeated twice, with our theme song being sung four times. This is a shorter list than some of the previous camps, but repetition is good, and it’s easier on the music team!

The songs

All because of Jesus by Steve Fee (2007): This is one of our openers.

All I have is Christ by Jordan Kauflin (2008, Sovereign Grace): This is a new song for camp. We sing it at church and I think it’s a good song to finish with.

Amazing Grace (My chains are gone) by John Newton/Chris Tomlin (2006, Passion): I really dislike Chris Tomlin’s version, but the team thought this one would be good to include; it’s also the only song from before this century! I’ll be mixing up which verses we sing because I cannot stand the “You are forevvvver minnne” part at the end.

By Faith by Keith & Kristyn Getty (2009): This is our theme song! It’s a great to encourage us to trust God’s plan, and a good song in general.

Christ is Risen by Matt Maher (2009).

Creator by The Lads (2002): An Übertweak tradition, it’s not possible to go through a week without Creator! We’ll start Friday morning with it.

Happy Day by Tim Hughes (2006): Another opener.

Indescribable by Laura Story (2004, Passion).

Our God by Chris Tomlin (2010, Passion): Chris Tomlin makes it into the list twice with this, one of our closers. (I always say I don’t like Chris Tomlin’s songs, but I think that’s more his adaptations of old hymns, such as Amazing Grace and the Wonderful Cross. Some of his original songs are quite decent.)

Promises by Sanctus Real (2012, the radio!): When I heard this song on 96.5 I thought it would be a great addition to the Übertweak music list, and it fits the topic so well too!

Tell the World by Joul Houston (2004, Hillsong): Another Übertweak favourite, and the first song we’ll be singing on camp.