Here at Capitol City, we invest a lot in summer camp experiences for our children and students. For three weeks this summer, our students and leaders will travel to camps in Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming for experiences that we have been planning and praying for over the last year. My own children (at least, those who are of camp age) are excited to be a part of these weeks. As parents, Kristen and I are eager to send them. On top of that, as a pastor I believe wholeheartedly in these kinds of experiences. I think so much of what church camp can do in the life of a young person that I am traveling to Wyoming with our high school group next month to help lead the camp.
Why am I so convinced that camp matters? Why do I encourage other parents to send their children to camp? Here are three reasons.
1. Students build great relationships at camp. By and large, the decision-making habits of young people are driven by relationships. If students know that people they want to be with are going to be at an event, they’ll want to attend that event. The opposite is also true: If no one they know (or have a relationship with) is going to be present, they won’t want to be there. Often parents will say to me, “My student doesn’t want to be involved at church because she doesn’t have any friends there.”
Yet countless times I have seen students form new, deep, lasting relationships at camp. When you put a group of students together, separate them from distractions, and give them opportunities to get to know one another, they will form relationships. They will make friends. And often those friendships last well beyond the week in which they are formed, shaping (positively) a student’s desire to be involved at church. Many times I’ve seen students go from disinterested in church life to positively engaged in church life, all because of the relationships they built at camp.
2. Students get “unplugged” at camp. Parenting in the digital age is hard. Young people are constantly lured by the glow of the screen. More and more research is suggesting that this is a problem – that children and young adults are being shaped negatively and powerfully by overexposure to the digital world.1
Camp gives students a great opportunity to get away from that digital world, even if it is just for a few days. Instead of waking up to iPhone notifications or a day of online gaming, students wake up in environments that are removed from, secluded from, and protected from all things digital. This isn’t easy for them. Some of them hate it. Yet all of us – adults included – need an occasional digital detox or sabbath. Camp offers an opportunity for that.
3. Students get in the Word at camp. I’ve saved the best reason for last. At camp, students get a concentrated exposure to what they need most of all – the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is revealed in the Word of God.
Our hope for our young people is that they will grow up into salvation by longing for the pure spiritual milk that is the Word of God (see 1 Pet 2:2). Our desire for young people is that they will build their lives on something certain (see 2 Pet 1:16-21) and imperishable (see 1 Pet 1:23-25). Our prayer for young people is that they will be like fruitful trees planted by streams of water because of their delight in God’s Word (see Psalm 1). At our camps, every student gets solid, extended, and Christ-exalting exposure to God’s Word.
For these reasons, and many more, Kristen and I will make church camp a priority for our family this summer. I pray that you will, too!
1 For an insightful (though troubling) article on the psychological effects of overexposure to the digital realm on young people, click here. For a great, book-length treatment on how to protect against such overexposure, see Andy Crouch’s great book, The Tech-wise Family.