Kaitlin Kendel from Abilene Emanuel UMC leads a group practicing to lead worship at the Great Plains Annual Conference session June 15 during the recent Amp It Up! music camp at Southwestern College.
Photo by David Burke

by David Burke, communications coordinator for the Great Plains Conference of the UMC 

Kaitlin Kendel remembers a past participant at the Amp It Up! worship band camp.

“She didn’t even want to play guitar. She came here because her friends were coming,” recalled Kendel, now worship director at Abilene Emanuel United Methodist Church, where that same girl is now a guitarist in the praise band. “Now she’s one of our strongest, most passionate guitar players. Seeing that transformation is just amazing.”

Twenty-five youth – mostly high-schoolers, but middle school if deemed talent-worthy – came to the campus of Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, for the fifth-annual, five-day camp, May 29 to June 2.

Kendel, a Southwestern graduate, is now a mentor at Amp It Up!, and directing a group that will lead worship Friday morning at the Great Plains Annual Conference session next week in Wichita. Besides leading praise and worship music in one session, the band will perform a piece written by the songwriting team at the camp.

“This camp plants a seed of worship in the hearts of people that come, even if it doesn’t look like that specific way,” Kendel said. “I know kids who come here who don’t plan on being worship leaders, but they love the community here. That’s a big thing, because not a lot of churches have established worship leaders for their youth.”

Among those youth is Ainsley Smith, a junior this fall from Sabetha, Kansas. The lone flute player in the camp, she received instruction on how to incorporate her instrument into a guitar-and-keyboard heavy praise band.

“I definitely feel closer to God when we’re worshipping together and sing,” she said. “It’s great.”

Martin Rude, director of outreach ministries at Southwestern College and camp director, said the camp’s “main goal is to share the story of what God’s doing through music.”

The other goals, he said, are to cultivate the calling among young adults who are gifted musically, working in their local church “and maybe experiencing a call into full-time music ministry.”

Students work with professionals in various fields of music, which Rude said is mutually beneficial.

“It gives them community,” he said. “They get to train and equip and be fed at the same time.”

The initial intent of Amp It Up!, Rude said, was for students to spend their time writing and making music in Southwestern’s studios. But after the first years, it was decided to increase the worship and fellowship levels rather than the intricate and sometimes-tedious job of recording.

“It’s just been amazing what God is doing in the individual lives of these campers,” Rude said.