Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Most Important Lesson I Learned at Church Camp

I started attending camp at Yellow Creek Lake about 27 years ago.  As a young camper I was impressed by all the great, fun activities.  I especially loved crafts and swimming.  I enjoyed the relationships that I built with other campers and with volunteers over the years.  I could not imagine a summer without YCL.  In fact, during high school I began volunteering at the camp as much as I was allowed.  I even spent 6 of my 8 summers during college in ministry at the camp.  I never imagined that as an adult I would end up back in this same place that has so touched my life.  I can see though how God has been working on me for this place and this time at Yellow Creek.

Through the many years as a camper and a staff, I was learning something again and again - and it only hit me about a month ago.  I just realized that all of that time I had been learning the same lesson: Spiritual Retreat.

Just over a year ago, I began working at YCL as the program director.  This was not a part of my plan as a happy stay at home mama with 3 little boys.  I knew, however that God was leading me back to the camp, and that was confirmed after I chose to do the things I felt as though he had urged me to do.

During those first weeks, as I talked with a children's minister, who I highly respect, she asked me to, "explain why church camp is relevant in today's culture."  I was stumped.  I mean, I know it's valuable - but how do I explain what makes it "culturally relevant"?  I spent most of a year trying to figure this out.  Then, one morning as I was preparing to share with a church about the camp - I realized that our kids are in DIRE need of spiritual retreat.

Do you know that there are preschoolers involved in 3 or 4 activities a week?  I don't condemn their parents for wanting to have active, involved children.  Those kids are learning things my kids won't ever understand.  By high school many parents become chauffeurs, only spending time with their children as they shuttle them from one activity to the next.  Our kids are busy all the time.  When they are not busy - they are watching television, using the internet, talking on the phone.

Kids don't know what it is to have quiet in their lives.  They don't know what it is to "rest in the Lord".  It is hard to hear God's voice in a world that is constantly moving.

Church camp is culturally relevant because it helps kids learn spiritual retreat.  It gives busy students a chance to have a break from their constant movement.  It slows life down.  There is a unique opportunity to bond with spiritual leaders in a new way as students participate in small group devotions away from home.  Often it's easier to be open and honest when they are not afraid of who might be listening.

Church camp is relevant to our culture because it teaches healthy relationships with others (and without a computer or cell phone in the way).  It offers community in a very real way.  The relationships that children build at church camp can grow over the years and allow for life-long friendships that encourage spiritual growth beyond the school days.

Church camp is important in our culture because it allows students to step out of their comfort zone without fear of condemnation.  Kids can try new things, take risks, and have a supportive family behind them when they fall down.

It allows students to ask difficult questions of adults who are trained to help them search for answers.

Camps get kids that are media saturated outside, breathing natural air, chasing kick balls, fishing, shooting arrows, and so much more.  Camp is active in a world of inactivity.  Many children feel lost without a screen in front of their faces.  This is an opportunity to put the screen away and really interact, really live.

Many churches are failing to present the Gospel message in a meaningful way to children.  Many do a great job at presenting the message, but neglect to invite children into a relationship with God.  Church camp tells the story and invites the relationship.  Camps like Yellow Creek Lake even report back to the churches when life changing decisions have been made so that church leaders can follow up on them.

Have you considered sending a child to church camp?  If you're in or near northern Indiana, I highly recommend Yellow Creek Lake Camp Ministries.  If you are not, I recommend searching for local church camps that offer activities your child enjoys.


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