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.
This blog post is the third installment of a series on church camp. You can find the first post about Kids Camp by clicking this link here, and the second post about Junior High Camp by clicking on this link.
I think you know me well enough by now to know that I’m just going to lay it out for you right here: We called it Senior Camp when I was growing up. By the way, I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t ditch the “old names”. So I’m not going to stress over it.
Senior Camp was for 9th-12th grades and teens that had graduated from High School but still attended Youth Group. Camp began on Sunday afternoon and ran through Friday morning with chapel, again, in morning and evenings. Though camp did not end until Friday morning, due to a conflict in schedule, I returned on Thursday night and brought our kids home at about the time of lights out. Since the “last day” of camp is actually just waking up, eating breakfast, packing up, cleaning your dorm/cabin, and leaving… I thought leaving 9 hours early wouldn’t hurt.
Our church only sent 2 kids to Senior Camp, my son Jeffrey (15) and another girl from our church the same age. This camp had the largest attendance of all, with 200+ kids!
Unfortunately, I began getting sick the last few days of Junior High Camp after a bad allergy attack. Only a few hours in to Senior Camp and I was laying in my bunk, curled up in a fetal position, and shivering. While everyone was at their first chapel service, I reluctantly went home with the intention to come back. However, my Doctor insisted that I not… something about early bronchitis, double ear and sinus infections, and my being crazy. I decided I should listen, for once.
So instead of giving you a full run down, I will tell you what I have gathered from my son, the girl from my church, posts on Facebook, things I heard when I returned to gather our kids (I did attend the last service), and so forth.
Many of the activities were the same or similar. Jeffrey says that the afternoons were mostly free time. There were more options of things to do. Basketball, throwing around a football, pool, ping pong, horseshoes, baseball, volleyball, etc.
Again, this is Jeffrey giving me the information… my 15 year old son… Chances are if it didn’t catch his eye, then he didn’t take note of it. It is entirely possible that there was much more.
Before the evening services there was a Lip Sync Battle. I caught the last night and it was hilarious!
The majority of what I heard about from the kids was about chapel. I feel that speaks volumes!
Mark McGaffin, Youth Pastor at Higher Vision Church in Valencia, CA, was once again the speaker at this church camp. Sermons had themes such as “You are more than a #hashtag”, “Let It Out” in reference to worship, “Sin is like cheating on God”, and more… But these were the sermons that stuck out most to Jeffrey.
As it always has for as long as I can remember, Senior Camp involves quite a bit of horsing around. Similar to things that go on with kids at school, mostly done in good fun, one cabin pranks another and then that cabin tries to figure out who did it so they can retaliate, and so forth. More than a little annoying, but it seemed that the leaders did their best to keep it under control and have plans to reinforce rules and keep the pranking to a minimum in the future.
Really, if you get this many people together… there is going to be “schtuff”. Not everything is going to flow as smoothly as the smaller camps with the younger kids.
Considering everything, while it would have been nice for the kids and workers that did not want to be a part of it to be picked on, when looking at the big picture… We have to remember this: The enemy is angry and we need to not let him win… both by not acting like teenagers should be expected to act like angels and dwelling on what happened, and by taking measures to lower the incidences of drama next year. After all, not every person that attends church camp is a Christian. Can we expect those that are not saved to behave as we would? For the most part, everything went smoothly and a good majority behaved Christ like.
Our District Youth Directors from SoCal Youth went above and beyond this last week of church camp. Nancy had her baby the second morning of camp. Everyone seemed to step forward and do what they could to help Roque out as needed. Once again, youth pastors were taking part in the services.
When I returned the last night to pick up the kids, I was able to attend the last service. A memory that I will NEVER forget is that of Roque pacing as he prayed on the platform in front of all the kids. He seemed to be warring in the Spirit so that the full Glory of the Lord could fall upon each camper, declaring victory before it happened, and praising God for the victory when it did.
Who wouldn’t want a leader like that for their kids and teens?!
This blog post is the second installment of a series on church camp. You can find the first post about Kids Camp by clicking this link here.
And again, I have to just get it out and call it Junior High Camp. No, not middle school camp. Junior High Camp. With the proper letters capitalized and all. I’m just weird, I know. I know!
For this camp, we had an even smaller attendance from our church. My daughter Becca (13), another girl from our church, and myself. I was very excited to spend time with these 2 girls as one is my daughter and I love the other one dearly. This camp we had about 80 kids in attendance, again a big drop from the old days. But more on that in another post… Teen Camp A (JUNIOR HIGH CAMP, heh…) was for those in 6th-9th grades.
(Okay, I’m just going to refer to it as Junior High Camp for the remainder of this post. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself. I don’t mind the other name at all. But it just
rolls off the tongue, er, flows on to the keyboard/reads easier. So follow: Junior High Camp (the old skool name) = Teen Camp A (the new official name). Both mean church camp for tweens and teens. Now moving right along… and pretending I didn’t just get all neurotic so early in a blog post…)
Camp ran from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday morning, with chapel in the morning and evening.
Morning chapel began in the with a “warm up” song… They were the same songs to get the wiggles out at Kids Camp, but it was still fun. Not that there wasn’t enough exercise walking up and down the mountain from dorm to chapel and back… But we could all use a little more, right? 😉 Especially with all the delicious food! It was also a great way to transition from being loud all morning to being on task in service.
Chapel still had games, but the focus changed from kids competing somewhat randomly to dorms competing against each other in “Dorm Wars”, which also carried over in to the rest of the day/night activities. Musical pies, who could drink the grossest concoction, guess the movie title by the emojis, stuff like that. We would then have worship, which was some of the same songs from Kids Camp minus the motions, (though some of us just couldn’t help ourselves and let motions pop out now and then) and a few more songs added in. Next would be the big reveal of who won/lost dorm inspections… which involved losers cleaning bathrooms and winners being the first in line for lunch. We would then be dismissed to go back to our dorms to have devotions and discuss our reflections from the sermon the night before.
Evening chapel began and flowed similarly. Worship lasted a little longer than morning service. With each service, the kids became more involved and hungrier for the presence of God. Towards the end of the worship portion, one of our SoCal Youth Directors, Roque or Nancy (who was still pregnant and still putting us all to shame), would give a statement to encourage the kids to draw closer or dig deeper. A few different nights, instead of one of the District Youth Directors, a Youth Pastor in attendance as a counselor would make the statement instead. Every time it was right on point and definitely God inspired, resonating with the kids.
It was refreshing to not only have Directors and a speaker that were obedient to give the message given to them by the Holy Spirit in the tone that it should be delivered, but also obedient as to WHO should give the message… and then that these Youth Pastors were obedient to deliver the message they received in the way it was intended. Whether that be excitable, serious, emotional… because how it is delivered makes a huge impact on how it is received. Then the person hearing the message is much more likely to be obedient as well. It is a chain that just keeps going down, I know. But when you have seen ministries that are not always obedient, it was exactly as I said, refreshing.
For Junior High Camp, Mark McGaffin’s series was titled “Flip The Switch”. He actually built a giant make-shift switch and presented it in a way to really grab the kids attention on the very first night, having the sound/lights people do techy things to make it seem as if it was really plugged in and could function part of the time. (He’s still working on this invention after all.) I thought it was cute when the first night one kid I didn’t know turned around and said to me, “I can’t tell if it’s real or not.” Hey, maybe it is!
Bro. Mark’s sermons were mostly based on stories of Peter with titles such as “Flip The Switch: From Doubt to Faith”, “From Guilt To Grace”, “From Fear To Courage”, and I know there was one more but here is where my old age comes in… I can’t remember what it was right now. While the messages were geared towards tweens and young teens, they still challenged some of us adults and inspired us.
The altar calls at Junior High Camp were REALLY good. Kids came down and gave their lives to Jesus. Tweens and teens were filled with the Holy Spirit. People were revived and renewed. There were different calls for prayer each night, for those with certain problems to come down and receive prayer. Calls were also made for if those that just needed prayer for something else. These altar calls usually began with Mark after his message and would also include another call after a few minutes from our leader, Roque, or another youth pastor in attendance that had made a statement at the end of worship. These kids were getting closer to Jesus and experiencing Father God and the Holy Spirit in ways they hadn’t before. Some of them, one being my daughter, matured a lot spiritually for having only been at camp 4 days.
Similar to kids camp in that there was good food, friends made, lizards caught/released (Though less than kids camp… what is it with kids and lizards? Not just boys, girls too!), and dirt sticking to everyone, tweens and teens church camp was a lot of fun.
Lunch took a little longer since for Junior High Camp lunch was not provided by the dining hall (breakfast and dinner were still provided) and was bought by each camper from the Snack Shack… the camps well known grill and snack bar… where they could choose what they want and wait for it to be prepared. This is like a rite of passage for some of these kids. Same at Kids Camp, but there they are mostly buying candy, sno cones, and sometimes a small meal after evening service. For some it is the first time that they are on their own somewhere, without their parents, with money that they can choose how to spend. Money that they can order what they want to eat with no judgements from grown ups. They loved it! So while lunch didn’t take forever, it did dig in to a bit more of the afternoon time, which was fine because there was a LOT of time.
Afternoons consisted of optional activities from softball, basketball, volleyball… (some other kind of ball I’m sure… Do I look athletic? 😉 There was sports. How’s that? Ha!) to making tie dye shirts, paint classes, and other options. Some of the activities required a small fee, but it was never more than a few dollars and always worth it.
I quickly regretted not making a tie dye shirt… So when another day they offered the paint class, I was glad that Becca, the other girl from our church, and a friend that they made while there all wanted to do it so I wouldn’t look ridiculous painting by myself a picture that looks like it was painted by a 3 or 4 year old instead of a 34 year old. I learned a lot about my daughter and the other girls I was sitting with just by painting a picture together. Funny how that works, huh? How we say stuff without actually saying it when we’re being creative? Another blog post for another day…
Afternoons also meant… DORM WARS! Now, dorm wars outside of chapel isn’t “Oh, let’s stand around and play a game where we guess/yell stuff or get messy and gross”. No. Dorm wars means actual war… Like, not guns and death, but war on old people’s bodies as the kids run so fast ahead of you that you begin singing that old song, “See the bright light shine! It’s just about home time! I can see my Father standin’ at the doooooor”! Basically, it is a group scavenger style race. Each dorm carries their flag and begins with a card stating what station to go to. You RUN to that station, do the required activity (usually something physical, but sometimes eating something gross or a puzzle kind of thing), get a card saying where to go next, repeat. For like 3 years… or maybe it was around 30 minutes. I’ve blocked some of the trauma out. What I have not blocked out is where every hidden bathroom is located because I was drinking a TON of water and running made it… well, you get it.
Now, this is where I have to give a shout out to another counselor in our dorm, Mallorie, because she showed up and showed out. See, each dorm is required to have at least 1 counselor participate… She did it almost every time and rocked it. She also drank the gross stuff in chapel and showed us all how to take a pie to the face without really taking it. Now, me having left my brain at the Carl’s Jr we stopped at to use the bathroom on the way to camp, forgot until I rolled my ankles that I’m not supposed to be doing things like running. Did that stop me? No. I kept trying. Until I finally realized I had lost my mind, I am not young anymore (sad face), and parked myself on a bench.
Did I say afternoons meant dorm wars? Oh, that’s not right. Afternoons and nights after chapel also meant dorm wars. Even more fun in the dark and better because less people see you fall or spit dripping out of your mouth as you run! In all seriousness, it was fun. I wish I was in better shape. The kids loved it. Even though our dorm (GO PIIIIIIINK!!!!) lost, probably my fault, it was still worth it… now that I can’t remember the pain.
With adolescence comes… crushes. I was shocked to see how my daughter acts when she likes a boy, which wasn’t bad, just something new and I’m not sure I’m ready for her to be a teenager yet. Can we go back to Kids Camp? No? Anyways, the kids at this church camp did differ in one major way from the way it was at my Junior High Camp. Less boy craziness. Don’t get me wrong, it was there and more so in some girls than others, but most of these girls all seemed to have more confidence in themselves and less need for the attention of a boy.
Whether or not you sent your kids and teens to church camp this Summer, the question at some point probably crossed your mind: Does church camp really make any difference other than just a giant sleep over and a bunch of junk food while playing games?
I spent some time at the youth camp our church attends last month. Here are my honest thoughts… but first, a little back story… I’ll try to keep it short…
I was born in the early 80’s, back when everyone went to some kind of camp every year. Whether church camp, scout camp, or another activity camp, almost all the kids I knew went to camp. The majority of my childhood was spent counting down until I could go to junior camp when I turned 7. From there on, my friends and I spent every year counting down until the next Summer when we would go to camp again.
It was that big of a deal, people. Really. I’ll spare you the view of a gazillion photos that I cherish to this day. Mostly because they involve embarrassing clothes and hair styles…
We would start planning our outfits around Easter, as back then we still dressed up for both services each day. Dresses, heels, hair, the works. Packing of the bags began in July. It was a major process… and in August, it would quickly come and go.
We learned something new about the God we served, made new friends, sang new songs, swapped addresses, and went home (Took the mountain with us! More on that later..) and started it all again. When I was 9 I had a really awesome (and very young) counselor named Sherry. She prayed with me, endured my sleep walking/talking, taught me all the awesomeness that is DC Talk, told us bedtime stories about Cinderella and the New Kids On The Block by flash light. Sherry was, like, so rad… She still rocks! (I can’t leave that out… 😉 ) That alone tells you about the relationships I formed during those years, as Sherry is one of my dearest friends today.
The camp I attended most as a kid and teen is the one I worked at this year. Formerly Bethel In The Hills (though many of us still call it by this name), now known as Mountain Pointe Campground, is a camp my family has attended for many years. As of this year, 4 generations of my family have now gone as either campers or workers. Founded in 1947 and owned by the SoCal District of the Pentecostal Church of God, this is the same camp that Sherry’s Grandpa along with my Grandpa and many others helped build to what it is today. It is where Sherry’s parents directed kids camp every summer for several years. So not only is church camp is one of my best childhood and teenage memories, without a doubt, it is also part of my legacy. Obviously church camp had a big impact on me and was definitely worth it.
But then I grew up… Right? Did anything come from what happened to me all those years at camp? Well, back to that later in this series. However, first let me tell you very honestly that for several years I began to wonder if church camp was worth it. Was it worth the time? The effort? The money? Are kids today still getting slammed by the presence of God and knowing just how real He is? Do they even get that they are there for God, or are they so stressed out without electronics that they can’t function without Wi-Fi to know how to have dive in to the presence of God and have fun when not in chapel? Well, in this series I will tell you how our camp went this year. Then I’ll let you decide for yourself…
Or as old people like me who can’t let go of the old labels call it: Junior Camp. (Whew, I feel better now… Okay, I’m not that bad. But I couldn’t get it through my head to stop using the old names.)
In attendance from our little church was my son, Tommy (8), 3 other boys, my pastor, and myself. No girls from our church so that meant I was bunking with a bunch of people I didn’t know… which a few years ago would have been enough to send me running home. Thanking God again for deliverance from anxiety! All together we had around 90 kids, I think. This is a big drop from the hundreds that were in attendance in my childhood, so I was a bit shocked when I first arrived. Kids camp was for those from 1st grade up to 5th grade.
Camp ran from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning with chapel in the morning and evening.
Each service began with a game or two and a warm up “get your wiggles out” song. The kids would then all do worship, with all of the songs including motions. Sometimes even balloons were part of worship, which to the kids was just the best thing ever. The sermon/lesson portion of the service followed a popular VBS curriculum with the sanctuary being decorated according to the theme.
The end always had an altar call, with kids coming down for prayer. The remainder of the children sitting or that had returned to their seats were gently reminded sometimes that we needed to be reverent and quiet so that the ones at the front could talk to Jesus, but not one of them complained and some would even begin to pray for those at the front from where they were sitting. Quite a few kids gave their lives to Jesus. Heartaches were mended. Lives were changed.
Let me clarify before we go any further… I want to make it clear that I DO believe that a child can give their life to Jesus, be filled with the Holy Spirit (and there isn’t a Junior Holy Spirit, either!), experience the gifts of God, etc… Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me.” He didn’t say, “They have no idea what I’m talking about and they can’t know Me until they are either 18 or 21 depending upon their state of residence.”
So yes, we had kids at church camp that were saved and came to know Jesus while at camp this year, kids that were filled with the Spirit and felt His presence strongly in a way that they will always remember. I’m sure there were also kids who may have returned home unchanged, but there is no doubt that seeds were sown and they will never forget that time they went to camp in the mountains with those people that loved Jesus.
There were things that kids told me that broke my heart, reports that made me leap, and stories that encouraged me that God is still moving in the younger generations. Our leaders from SoCal Youth, Roque and Nancy, did a great job of explaining how to pray and listen for God to these young children and how they could talk to Jesus about anything and everything. Oh, and did I mention that Nancy was pregnant and her due date was the first day of camp? That’s commitment, y’all. She didn’t have her baby until Senior Camp a week later and was probably tougher than anyone else in attendance. She put us all to shame.
The kids had a ton of fun in between services: good food, friends made, lizards caught/released, and dirt sticking to everyone. It was a blast! Hiking, basketball, dodge ball, water wars… there was a little down time but the kids didn’t seem to notice. Naturally, the kids loved being able to play outside at night for a bit after evening chapel. What kid doesn’t love running around in the dark?
You know what else kids love? Hot Cheetos, worshiping in chapel with a giant T-Rex that also makes appearances on other parts of the campground, banging on the chapel doors while chanting “CHAPEL!” or “LET US IN!”, and seeing their leaders slimed… Yes, slimed! Sometimes it was for having the dirtiest dorm, other times the cleanest. It seemed there was no avoiding it… but Teal Dorm did, thank you Jesus! 😉
I’m in quite a few Facebook groups for Children’s Pastors and while I have read horror (and rather hilarious) stories of kids not showering and other hygiene issues while at church camps, I did not see or hear any of this going on at our camp, thank goodness! Now, cleaning toilets after little people who have consumed about 90% sugar for a few days? My gag reflex is still healing… but hey! All to the glory of God and lives being changed! Amen? Amen! 😉
While a few kids had to be sent home for various ailments, it always seemed that the ones that had to go were the children who needed a touch from God the most. If church camp isn’t worth it, would the enemy fight so hard? One has to wonder… back to that later…
Part 2 can be read by clicking here.