When I was in elementary school we went to a small - and I mean small - church. Most Sundays there were about 35 people there, and so my family became pretty involved in many aspects of our church life. Being so involved as a kid has made a big difference in the way that I view church involvement as an adult.
But there was one thing that the congregation did that changed my life forever: they sent me to church camp.
That group of mostly-older people offered to pay part of the registration fee for any kid who wanted to go to camp. I had already been to 4-H camp and absolutely loved it, and so it seemed to me that MORE camp could only be a great thing. I signed up.
As the time for camp approached, I got nervous. After all, I had "grown up" hearing stories of my dad's 4-H camp days, but I was pretty sure that church camp would be inherently different. After all, I doubted that we'd get so messy or be quite as crazy as we 4-Hers tended to be, so ... what would we do? Would we sit around and contemplate scripture all day?
Which, in turn, made me think about scripture. By the time that my family dropped me off at Camp Penn, I was full of questions, but I left knowing Who had the answers.
Why did my week at Camp Penn change me so much? Why does every kid need to visit church camp?
1. I met Jesus at Camp Penn. Yes, it may sound stereotypical, but He was waiting for me in the chapel pew on the last night of camp. From Bible studies to team building activities with a spiritual twist, to making my own dinner over the campfire and being part of the "Camp Penn Choir," He was infused in every activity that we did. That was a new experience for me, and a wonderful one - and it just might be a game-changer for your kids, too. At the very least, as a friend of mine says, "You can't have too much Jesus."
2. The counselors have a fresh perspective. The counselors at camp may have explained things the very same way as my parents and Sunday School teachers, but for some reason, I was listening differently. It was "cool" to talk about God at camp. People were explaining things in different ways than I'd ever heard before - because I had never met these people before. Their stories were new, their testimonies were new, and I paid attention. The same is true for other kids - because it IS something that they haven't heard before, they'll listen to it in a different way.
3. Jesus went camping, too. Sounds crazy, but if you look at the Gospels, Jesus regularly retreated from the crowds for a quiet time to pray, be with friends, and fish. Sounds a lot like church camp, right? While church campers may not pray for hours upon end the way that we know Jesus could, there will be intense opportunities for spiritual growth and fabulous lessons planned by the camp chaplains and counselors. We all benefit from a break from routine for rest, spiritual renewal, and time with friends, and that's true for your kids, too.
4. They have to leave sometime. One of our tasks as parents is to prepare our children to be independent, responsible adults, able to follow God wherever He leads them. That means that at some point, they have to leave us, and they'll probably need to start doing that before they turn 18. Church camp is a great way to help them build basic independence. While they'll be entrusted to counselors, you won't be the one helping them get somewhere on time or reminding them to brush their teeth. They need to step up for that, and it's an experience you can't replicate at home.
So, there you go. Four reasons why your kids should absolutely go to church camp this summer. Have you been to church camp? What would you add?