I recently returned from a week at Bible camp. I was the speaker for a group of 80 9-11 year olds. I haven’t been to camp in over 20 years, but my church is a huge supporter of this camp and they needed a speaker, so I agreed to help. I had never been to this camp before but I have spent lots of time at camp as a camper and as a cabin leader. I think Bible camp is a hugely important ministry.
I arrived on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. The camp is situated deep in the heart of a provincial park. There are lots of trees, huge rocks, and a gorgeous lake.
First up was staff meeting. I met those I would be serving with and we were given instructions and a job for while parents and kids were arriving. I was sent to the main gate to direct traffic (interesting job considering I had never been to this camp before!! But no one got lost!)
The kids started to arrive and the week kicked off.
I spoke every morning in chapel and three times in the evening at campfire. During my free time I read, napped, and wandered around the camp and hung out with the kids.
One afternoon I discovered the path to the archery range. The path wove through the woods and it was lined with lampposts. For a minute, I imagined I was in Narnia!
Chapels and campfires were my favorite times at camp. The kids were attentive, engaged, interested, and curious. I loved the questions they were asking!
One day at lunch a girl came to me and said, “You answered all of my questions and I hadn’t even asked them yet!”
After chapel the kids sat on the grass in cabin groups and talked about chapel and what they learned. They were able to ask questions; the leaders were given a chance to see what the kids heard and understood. It was a great opportunity for small group interaction.
One thing that amazed me as the week progressed was the things that hadn’t changed since I was a camper. The prayers prayed before meals; the early morning staff meetings; the skills offered like archery and canoeing; the songs sung in chapel and at campfire; the fact that God uses camp as a significant growing experience in the lives of the kids who attend.
One cabin leader reported at staff meeting that a boy in his cabin admitted that this was the first time he had ever heard that God loved him. Other cabin leaders reported kids choosing to give their lives to Jesus.
I love camp! I believe that it is a valuable ministry that should be supported and encouraged.
Here are 5 reasons why camp is a valuable ministry:
1. It is an amazing opportunity to get to know kids and build a relationship with them.
24 hours a day for a week – that’s a long time!
At camp you have time to talk. There is no rush. There are moments throughout the day to really talk with kids – in the cabin during quiet time or bedtime; at meals in the dining hall; walking to and from activities; during free time in the afternoons.
At camp you have time to pay attention to kids – to give them your full attention. There are some kids who are just waiting for someone to pay attention to them; someone who is interested in the stories they have to tell; the fears they experience; the bulls eye they got in archery.
At camp you have fun together. This is so important when building a relationship with kids. There are many opportunities to have fun. As a leader, you have to choose to get in there and participate. Don’t be afraid to let the kids see you enjoying yourself or even be a little silly!
2. At camp you have lots of opportunities to talk about God.
Chapels and campfires are great opportunities to talk about God, but they aren’t the only ones. Devotionals in the cabins; meals in the dining hall; walks to and from activities; hanging out on a flotation device. This is a chance to show that talking about God can be natural. You don’t need to wait until chapel or devotionals. Make “God talk” a normal part of camp life – a natural event. God is real and involved in every part of our lives. So, talk about Him in chapel, at campfire, during devotionals, walking to archery, while you are canoeing, while you are eating, anytime!
It’s also a great opportunity to share the gospel with kids and to take your time doing it. Kids have time to think through each part of the gospel message and to realize that it is personal.
3. At camp kids have the chance to think about the things they are learning and ask questions.
Sometimes at Sunday School or children’s church, things are a little rushed and kids don’t get the chance to ask their question or even to think about what their question might be. There is so much time at camp. Kids have the chance to think about God and what a life with Him looks like. They have a chance to formulate and ask their questions. They have the chance to really hear the answers and to follow-up. I like the pace of camp and the opportunity it affords kids to think and to express their curiosity.
4. It’s an Amazing Opportunity to Provide Training for Volunteers.
Some camps use this opportunity and make every use of it and others don’t. I was a counselor at a camp that gave its leaders very little training. You applied, were accepted, showed up for your week or 2 of camp, had one short staff meeting before the campers arrived and that was it. The camp that I recently spoke at provides 5 weeks of training for its Cabin Leaders. Training includes leadership skills, first aid, certification in skills, and spiritual training.
I was really impressed with the training offered to staff at this camp. Cabin leaders are primarily teenagers and with the training provided they are given skills that they will use in church ministry and can put on their resume.
5. Time Away
I came back from camp exhausted! It was early mornings and late nights. And yet, I was refreshed. It was time away from my regular schedule. There was no wi-fi at this camp, so I was cut off. I couldn’t check facebook or twitter. It was, instead, an opportunity to rest; to enjoy God’s glorious creation; to re-charge.
Camp is time away whether you are a camper or a staff member. And it is valuable whether you are a camper or a staff member. Rest is underrated in our society, but I believe it is hugely important. I may not have gotten enough sleep while I was at camp, but I did get rest.
Why Do I Take Time to Go to Camp?
The last day at camp I was down at the lakeside watching the kids swim. A girl came running to me, gave me a huge hug, and said, “Thank you for telling us about Jesus!”
That’s why I go to camp!