This blog post is the fourth installment of a series on church camp. You can find the first post about Kids Camp by clicking this link here, the second post about Junior High Camp by clicking on this link, and the third post about Senior camp can be found by clicking this link.
I should have stated this from the beginning… No one asked me to write this series. I actually had no intention of blogging about church camp at all. Last Thursday, I was working on homeschool planning for this upcoming school year and praying over our family’s direction when I felt that I needed to write this all out. It hit me out of nowhere, I walked in to my laptop, started typing, and what you see is the result. Hopefully I have not upset anyone with my doing this… But what you see is honest and from my heart. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on… shall we?
Alright, so you’ve heard all about what goes on at each camp. Now let me respond to some concerns you may be having… You know that it is very involved to pack everything necessary for one camper to be prepared while on the campground. The cost seems like just one more expense… And what about the fundraising? School is about to start back up when camp is going on and there are other things that you could be doing with your child’s time. So why bother with church camp?
Well, yeah, it is time consuming to pack for camp. You aren’t just packing a suitcase as though you are going to stay in a hotel. Other than food, you need to pack almost as though you are going full blown camping. But would you do it without complaint to send your child to another camp? Scouts camp, sports camp, science camp…
The cost, well, this depends… What campground are you going to? There are some really big camps out there, all frills and they still offer a spiritual experience for you kids and teens. SoCal Youth church camp is pretty basic in the way of amenities, bringing the costs down to be much lower than most others. Nothing fancy, but still nice. Do the campers complain? Not a peep!
Not everyone can afford to send their kids to camp… Fundraising, if done properly, does not have to be as daunting. My personal opinion? It should begin the week that camp ends for the following year. There are many creative ways to go about this and they don’t have to be boring. One idea would be a monthly sponsorship… If you have an idea of how much it will cost to send a kid or teen to camp you can break that down in to monthly increments that if a church member felt lead, they could contribute to. Need more ideas? A quick search on Pinterest will bring more than enough options.
One idea that we used at our church this last year was a Bible Read-A Thon. Just like a regular read-a-thon, but with the Bible. (Hmm, maybe I’ll post the forms I made up for this soon…) Another was that our kids had a “concert”. The music from this service was put on a CD with other recorded music of our kids singing and sold for a donation. We had bake sales, sold candy and soda, had penny marches… And we just barely made it. Of course, we didn’t start getting serious with fundraising until April. Imagine if we had started sooner!
I know. I’m busy too. This is where you have to decide if it is a time investment that is as important to your child’s development as soccer, a trip to an amusement park, or a few days at home playing video games. Which brings us to the big question…
You probably knew by now that this was going to be my answer… Right?
There is something about getting this many kids together from different churches… (big emphasis on that last part, not just the kids from one church, but many…) Giving them a safe place to have fun, make new friends, and experience the outdoors… And then standing back and watching God bless them in a life changing way that will impact the rest of their lives. With no where to be the next day and no responsibilities to go home to each night, kids let all their worship out in chapel. Yes. Church camp is definitely worth it.
How can that be? How can I have suggestions to make it better and still say it is worth it?
Well, sit down and take a deep breath before you read this… My opinions of what would make it better have a whole lot more to do with those of us sending our kids up there, not those running the camp.
I know. Ouch. It is our fault that our kids are not getting more out of camp…
I know, you’re sick of hearing what I have to say by now… But hear me out. Please.
Imagine my excitement when it worked out that Sherry, along with her Mom, daughter, and friend, would be visiting Southern California… I rarely get to see her and she is one of my rocks. I mentioned in the first post that Sherry and I have a history at camp. That her parents were our District Children’s Leaders for most of my childhood… That our Grandparents worked together as pastors in the same district for many years, forging a close friendship, and working hard to build up our campground and attend camp with their churches.
So imagine how much more excited I was when I told Sherry that I wouldn’t be home to see her because I would be at Junior High Camp and she basically said, “Even better! We’ll come up there!” And they did! At the time I didn’t think of the timing being more perfect other than the memories we all shared there. (And believe me, hugging Sherry’s neck in the quad, worshiping with her in morning chapel, and visiting over a Bethel Burger was all fabulous.)
But God had a plan… Their visit wasn’t a fluke. It probably sounds to you as though it worked out almost like a cheesy movie, but in reality it packed a punch! Sherry’s Mom, Debbie, poured in to some of us while there. She reminded me of some of the original vision for the camp and told me some things I did not know. For example: Did you know that 80% of missionaries receive their calling to the mission field while at church camps? That’s a HUGE number!
Many of us adults that were in attendance at camp then got to talking… Those of us that had attended camps had received part or all of our calling while at camp!
Some of us that had backslid later in our teens or as adults recalled times while away from God that we were in a dire place and remembered a moment from camp. Whether it was time in the altar, a conversation with a counselor, a song sung in chapel, or a sermon, those memories started flooding back and we began to reach out to God and make our way back to Him.
When I was a camper we had a phrase, “Take the mountain home with you.” Take it to school. Take it with you wherever you go. Don’t ever let it go. Never lose what God gave you on the mountain. I promise you, the kids that go to church camp take that mountain home with them.
Between Sis. Debbie and a few other “camp veterans” in attendance, I realized how important return volunteers are. Many of these workers were people that had been working at camp when I was a camper. Sis. Ross had been there when I was a little girl. I remembered her praying with me in chapel and doing bed checks at lights out. This year, she was still there working hard along with others, showing us “newbies” the ropes. I gleaned so much from their knowledge and experience!
Some people are called to work at church camp every year. Are you one of them? You don’t know until you pray about it and try it one year. You may be hooked! I will say this, I get why my Grandpa loved it so much now. Whenever the Lord allows, I will be at camp working in one way or another.