The Value of Summer Camp
I know it’s hard to believe, but summer is almost over. Vacations have been taken. Days at the pool and beach have been relaxing. But alas, the first day of school is only a couple weeks away, and life at Grace Baptist Church will swing back into high gear. In this month’s article I thought I would share the best week of my summer. There was one week this summer that was a particular source of encouragement to me spiritually.
The highlight of this summer was the week Michelle and I had the privilege of taking the teens to High Point Camp. When Pastor Monty confirmed that he was taking the position in Iowa, I immediately volunteered to take the teens to camp. During my years of youth ministry I always enjoyed our week of summer camp. And this year was no different. I had a great time with the teens and really enjoyed getting to know them a little better.
I have always been a huge proponent of summer camp. I understand that sending a kid to camp every summer may not be possible for various reasons, but I do believe camp is a worthy investment. Admittedly, sending a kid to a Christian camp for one week in the summer is by no means a silver bullet that will fix all of a teen’s shortcomings. Nonetheless, Christian camp is spiritually beneficial to teens. Allow me to share with you the reasons our week of camp was such a blessing.
Before I share my thoughts on the value of camp for teens, I want to first share how the week encouraged me personally. One of the things I love about being at a camp is that there are a lot of opportunities to meet new people. Staying at a camp is a wonderful place to meet other people serving in vocational ministry. Sitting with new people at meals and talking with them while wandering around the camp is a great opportunity to share ideas and get new perspectives on ministry. Meeting people serving in different parts of the country is always fascinating and helpful. Michelle and I also got to have dinner with some good friends from our seminary days. Meeting new people is fun, but reconnecting with old friends is particularly enjoyable.
Getting to know some of the camp counselors was also a great encouragement. I got to spend time during the week with more than ten young people who were serving on the High Point Camp counseling staff. Seeing a group of young men and women with a sincere passion to serve Christ was a great reminder that there is a rising group of committed believers preparing to step into vocational ministry. The energy level and commitment of the counseling staff at High Point was refreshing. These conversations throughout the week were a source of tremendous encouragement.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Years ago I read that there are two pivotal times to reach the heart of a child: at five-years-old and at fifteen. While the exact age may not be what’s most important in that statement, the stage of life is significant. The heart of a child must be reached in the formative years of childhood (e.g., at five) and once again in the teen years (e.g., at fifteen).
I believe that Christian camps are helpful in reaching the heart of a teen. It may seem overkill to load a group of teens on a bus and drive them several hours to another state for a week of camp. But I see great value in the whole process. In this article I will share seven reasons why summer camp is spiritually profitable for teenagers.
1. Teens build relationships with other kids in our church. To me, the long bus ride isn’t a waste of time--it’s an investment. Seeing the teens interact with one another on the bus is always interesting. This year, thankfully, we didn’t have any conflicts to resolve or problems to address. But even if there had been conflicts and problems, these are learning experiences for those travelling together. Seeing people who hardly know each other at the beginning of the week learning about each other is a positive experience for the teens. Spending hours on a bus can be exhausting, but it also provides a tremendous opportunity to build relationships.
2. Teens are taken out of their comfort zone and given the chance to make new friends. Sometimes young people need a break from certain friend groups in order to meet new people. Being at camp gives teens the opportunity to reevaluate unhealthy relationships at home while they learn to build new relationships. Spending the week in a cabin with strangers is a wonderful context to develop the relational skills necessary to build new relationships.
3. Teens meet other Christian teenagers who are facing the same challenges they are facing. Meeting other Christians who are wrestling with what it means to be a faithful follower of Christ in a perverse culture reminds teens that they are not alone in their spiritual battle. Teens quickly discover that the issues they believe are unique to them are, in fact, common to all people.
4. Teens have the opportunity to evangelize. Not every camper at a Christian camp is a follower of Jesus. Having unsaved teens at camp can be challenging, but it’s a great opportunity for Christian teens to show Christ to the lost. Yes, the counselor will share the gospel along with the speaker, but the campers also have a context in which they can share the gospel.
5. Teens are under the leadership of a counselor who is only a few years older than them. Living with a counselor who is committed to serving Christ for a week of camp teaches teens that ministry is not something done by only older people. These college young people sacrifice their summer to serve at a camp out of love for Christ. Being under the instruction of a camp counselor is a wonderful example of faith in action. Being exposed to a camp counselor also encourages some teens to seek an opportunity to serve at a camp in the future. On a personal note, our daughter’s counselor was quite impressive. As a father I was thankful that Jaelyn had the chance to be exposed to her counselor for the week.
6. Teens are placed under a consistent diet of Bible instruction and preaching. Seeing the teenagers in their Bible memory groups each morning was a blessing. Watching counselors teaching their campers verses and encouraging them to memorize Scripture touched my heart. Additionally, the preaching each night was excellent. The speaker spoke the truth boldly and in love. While the teens at Grace Baptist Church are consistently under sound preaching, it’s always good for young people to hear the same gospel from a fresh voice and from a different perspective. Camp is a concentrated time of Bible instruction that can have a deep impact on the heart of a teen.
7. Teens are removed from social media and other sources of entertainment. In my opinion, technology is robbing today’s youth of their childhood. The more opportunities kids have to be away from their devices, the better. Being at camp gets teenagers away from their devices and outside. Camp gives teens an opportunity to enjoy the wonders of God’s creation. Camp is spiritually challenging, but it’s also fun. Teens get to enjoy new activities outside in the water, on the grass, and in the fresh air. The teens in our group had to turn in all of their electronics to Michelle when we arrived at camp. Thankfully the camp did not allow electronics in the cabins. Not one person complained about turning in their devices. Not one of them commented about not having their phones while at camp. Camp is only a week, but it demonstrates to teens that they really can survive without constant access to their phones, computers, tablets, and MP3 players.
Attending High Point Camp with our teens was the highlight of my summer. I am so thankful that Michelle and I had the opportunity to chaperone the trip. Today’s youth are facing serious challenges; therefore, I pray that the week of camp helped those who went to draw closer to the Lord.
Let me challenge you to prayerfully consider camp next summer. I understand that camp is expensive. But let me put it to you this way, if you started saving for camp now you would have to save about $8.00 a week per child to cover the cost. If you put a “camp jar” in your house and put loose change and a few dollars in each week, you will be surprised at how far that would go to covering camp.
I am very thankful that my kids got to attend camp this year. If your teen didn’t get to attend this year, start planning and preparing now for the summer of 2020. It’s an investment that can make a huge impact in their lives.