I’m sure there are some reasons that Christian Camps are detrimental, but I’ll let someone else be Debbie Downer. I love camp. I love everything about camp. Teenagers are over-worked, over-stressed, and over-stimulated. The norm for a teenager is an inconsistent 65 hours of sleep meaning they get 5 hours some nights and 11 hours other nights. (This leads to stress and weight-gain.) They spend 40+ hours a week in school and at most 5 hours a week at church. You add homework on top of that and extra-curriculars on top of that, then what time is there for other godly things? Our teens are being indoctrinated by the world in multiple different ways and by multiple different sources. Camp doesn’t fix every issue in teenagers’ lives, because it’s not a solution in itself, but a kick-start, a beginning, an outline. So here are 5 reasons why I think you should send your teens to a Christian Camp this summer.
1) Get Away
Teenagers sometimes just need to get away from television, video games, bad influences, social media, and the humdrum that can be summer. Camp can actually help students live-out Romans 12:2. It can help them stop being conformed to this world and start being transformed by the renewing of their minds. Just getting teenagers away from the negative factors in their life can do a heck of a lot of good, but any Christian camp worth their salt goes far beyond merely removing “world conforming” elements. They are filling their mind with things like Scripture, prayer, worship, and Christian fellowship. A good camp is like going through detox. The “poisons” slowly work their way through one’s system and then can be replaced with new thoughts and new habits. As a youth pastor, I often saw teens “on fire” for Christ right when they left camp, only to see that passion fade as the weeks wore on. There’s no secret to why that happens. Often times when student’s head home, they fall right back in their normal patterns. Instead of being filled with godly things, they are filled with worldly things. Of course the passion begins to fade.
2) Learn More
Think about this. If you wanted to read The Hunger Games, which do you think would be better for getting engrossed in that story: if you only read it for twenty minutes one time per week for 27 weeks, or if you read it all in 5 or 6 days? The second Katniss says, “I volunteer… I volunteer as tribute,” there is no way you are putting that book down. Honestly after 27 weeks it’s hard to remember what even happened the week before. At least on TV, Lost gave us a “Previously, on Lost.” There is no if, ands, or buts about it; teenagers will learn more about God and his Word in one week at camp than they will in 6 months at youth group and church. In the real world, teens have to switch their brain from Scripture to calculus to guitar lessons to chemistry to soccer. But at camp they get to stay focused on the Bible for a whole week. It’s amazing how smart teenagers. Most people at church underestimate how much they can understand. Have you seen Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? I am not smarter than a fifth grader. Math is hard. We dumb down the awesomeness of Jesus too much and no wonder teenagers don’t find him interesting. Teenagers don’t find Thomas the Train interesting either because it’s for little kids. They want to deal with all the complicated situations that Scripture presents, and camp is a great place to introduce these concepts and then hand the mantle to their youth pastors from there.
3) Hear a New Voice
This one hurts the most. I could literally hand a guest preacher the exact transcript of my previous weeks sermon and my youth group would have gone nuts over how awesome the guest speaker was. It’s fine, I ultimately want them to get God’s Word. It doesn’t matter if it comes from me or not. It actually kind of makes sense. When I was a youth pastor, every middle schooler thought I was the coolest thing on the planet. By the time they were in high school, I was “ok.” Newer is always better. Kids only listen to their parents for like 8 years. If you’ve been their pastor or youth pastor for a few years, it’s time for them to hear a new voice. Camp is the perfect opportunity. The camp staff are soooo cool. They can’t wait to hear what they have to say. They are so much younger than their pastor, so they are of course so much more relatable. This is why youth pastors must pick the right camp that is going to accurately and powerfully preach and teach God’s Word. Even more than that, when my students had a leader in their cabin that went above and beyond to impact their lives it always yielded more fruit. If I knew someone at the camp that I thought would do a great job at getting into the lives of my youth, I’d be the squeaky wheel to make sure I got who I wanted. Either way, I’d buy Fudge Rounds and Red Bull for my teens’ counselors just as a show that I loved them and I wanted to do whatever I can do to help them invest in my students.
4) Meet Like-Minded People
It’s hard for teens in public school. Everybody curses. Everybody is having sex. Everybody believes in evolution. Obviously I’m exaggerating (except for everybody cursing. That’s a fact.) It is real easy for teenagers to feel all alone, weird, and stupid. Teens are at an unfair advantage when even their teachers are promoting ungodly things. At camp, there are hundreds of other teenagers that are like them. They want to do what’s right but they need help in accomplishing it. Just knowing that there are others that believe God created the universe is comforting. Often times, teenagers experience Christian fellowship for the first time. They think they’re just friends with other people in their youth group, but when they get to camp and meet people from another church and they know the same worship songs, and they’re youth pastor uses the same awkward illustrations when they do their purity talk, there is this instant camaraderie. They feel connected to something larger. They have never met but they have the same God and the same Savior, so they are one.
5) Have fun
Having fun is important for 2 reasons. The first is there is nothing about Christianity that is supposed to be boring. Jesus was at wedding feasts, eating dinner over friend’s houses, fishing, mountain climbing, and more. I think watching miracles was pretty fun too. I’m pretty amazed by Criss Angel’s magic and I know it’s all illusions. If I saw a real miracle I’d be going nuts. When Jesus dropped the mic on the Pharisees I’d be running around going “ah snap.” Camp is fun and it should be. Everybody needs to have fun. The world tries to convince us that fun is getting drunk, having casual sex, and recreational drug use. But there are consequences to those actions – sometimes terrible consequences. That’s the opposite of fun. Real fun has no consequences (except occasional broken bones, but no game is that fun if there’s not a chance of something breaking. But then you get a fun cast and can get to the front of the line at Disney World, so that’s fun.) I want teenagers to associate their faith with fun. The second reason is psychological. Fun equals relationship. When you have fun with someone they become your friend. When the camp staff has fun with the students there is an instant trust that cannot be formed in any other way as fast. Deep down, every teenager wants to get dirty and do gross stuff and compete for championships. Camp can do all that in a single afternoon. I tend to find that churches are usually only good at either the reverence aspect of Christianity or the relationship angle. Good camps are good at both.
Now I went to a great camp called Word of Life for nearly every summer during 7th-12th grade. And every summer except one, I dedicated my life to Christ by either throwing a stick in the fire or nailing something to a makeshift cross. So what happened that 1 year I didn’t dedicate my life to Christ? It was after my 12th grade year. I stayed seated in the back with a couple of skater kids and a few Goths when everyone else went forward to announce their devotion to Christ. The reason I didn’t that year was because I had already done it the year before. And the year before was not like every year previous; I really, really meant it. I was 100% all in for Jesus. I meant it when I told God I’d go anywhere and do anything. So the next year, I didn’t need to “re-dedicate” anything. I was already committed completely. Camp wasn’t the reason for this change in my life. It was the kick-start I needed. It helped me begin this journey I’m on. And it gave me an outline for how to live my life. If I spend time with the things of this world, I will be conformed more and more to it; but if I spend time with Jesus, I’ll be transformed more and more each day into His likeness.