Church camp: the bugs, stifling heat, lumpy mattresses, and lack of sleep; I love it! Okay, I’ve been to a number of Christian camps over the last 30 years, and none of them are all that glamorous. However, I do find myself missing it this year. This summer, I stayed home to recover from surgery while the rest of my family spent the week at Georgia Bible Camp. While I’ve enjoyed the peace and quiet and amenities of home, I missed all the things I love about church camp. Christian camps played an integral part in my and my husband’s spiritual development, and we’ve made it a priority to ensure our children have the same spiritually upbuilding experience as we did. I think they’ve learned to love camp as much as we do for all these reasons and more.
- Focus on Christ — For one week out of the year, we remove ourselves from the cares of the world and focus our minds on Christ (Hebrews 12:2). I wonder how many kids get baptized, restored, and renewed in their faith at Christian camps across the globe each year. For some children, this is the only spiritually formation they receive all year, and the onus is on teachers, directors, and counselors to ensure every child who comes to camp hears the good news of Jesus. For others, this is a time to reflect on their spiritual growth from the past year, refresh their souls with worship and Christian fellowship, and prepare themselves for the temptations of the next school year. Christian camps can be a spiritual oasis in a desert of worldliness and temptation; they are the reasons many children remain faithful.
- Co-Exist — For real! Camp is a lesson in living together in harmony. You have eight, twelve, or twenty people sleeping together in cabins. Add to that the whole group sharing bathrooms, eating all their meals together, playing sports, doing chores, etc. And differences of opinion abound, especially on Wednesday afternoons when sleep deprivation is at its peak, but the end of the week second-wind hasn’t kicked in yet. How many lessons are taught and learned at camp about the beauty of dwelling together in unity (Psalm 133:1)?!
- Forge Friendships — Camp is the place where I developed my closest Christian friendships. In fact, I wake up next to one of them each morning😉. Westley and I met at Bootheel Youth Camp in Bloomfield, MO, some 30 years ago. Perhaps that’s the real reason we bring our kids to church camps so faithfully! In all seriousness, I’ve maintained friendships not only with kids I met at camp but counselors who took time to mentor me and adults I’ve had the pleasure of counseling with as well. People like Stan Dauck, Howard Jones, Joy Kaye Watson, Cindy Monroe Labruyere, Julie Rush, and others whose names I don’t remember will forever hold a place in my heart because of the time they invested in me at church camp.
- Unite in Christ — Camp is the great equalizer. Popular kids, nerds, and jocks start looking more alike when covered in sweat, bug spray, and camp clothes. No matter who you are at school, you can come to church camp, lose those labels, and, for one week, just be a camper. Generally, there are too few of us at camp to break off into our own groups; we are forced to befriend our cabin mates or spend the week alone. And why shouldn’t it be like this? Christian camps are a microcosm of the church. In Christ, we all lose our labels and join together to be part of something bigger than ourselves (Galatians 3:28-29).
When I come to camp, most of all I am reminded of how beautiful heaven must be. Time spent together singing praises to the Lord in perfect harmony of our souls, if not our voices, is a glimpse of the eternal goal we share — heaven (Revelation 14). I encourage you to support your local church-affiliated camp with your prayers, your time, or your money. If children from your congregation do not currently attend a Christian camp, then start now encouraging the kids to go next summer. Lives are changed at church camps, souls are added to the body, and spirits are refreshed to go forth and work for the kingdom. Be a part of something of great eternal significance; go to camp!