I was going into sixth grade when I had my first summer camp experience. I had the most glorious week of my life and looking back on it, the interactions with my counselors and cabin mates and the spiritual encounters of that week created a defining moment in my life.
I work at camp so you might expect me to toot the camp changes lives horn…and I do…but, here’s the key thing that I think often gets misunderstood:
Church Camp is not the end all approach to ministry that solves all ills and teaches everything. But, it is a very effective launchpad and companion to student ministry.
Prior to camp, I was heading down a road with a group of friends and choices that would have ended up less than happily ever after. When I came home from camp, my world-view was prepped for something amazing. Jesus Christ was now my savior and an experience with an awkward cabin mate (a lifetime victim of bullying) opened my heart to compassion, hope, and justice. I was primed.
My family and my church is what happened next. It was their collective investment in my spiritual journey and my discipleship that shaped who I am today: mentors, bible studies, worship, retreats, social events, and more. Each year they made sure I attended church camp where I found inspiration, leaps of understanding, and exploration into my calling as a follower of Christ. Throughout the year my church and my family would help me unpack those moments and apply them to my life. At camp:
- I first felt the love of our creator
- I see key moments of transition in seeing people with God’s eyes
- I forged life-long influential relationships
- I first identified my calling
- I got my first glimpse of what it meant to live justice
- I became receptive
But, what if I had those moments and no one was there to walk the long road ahead with me? What if my parents hadn’t modeled Christ and hadn’t involved me in our youth group? What if leaders in my church hadn’t invested in me, taught me, called me out, or encouraged me?
Ask it the other way. What if I had only gotten the investment of my parents? What if my parents and church had given me everything but I never had pivotal moments of transition with which to identify Christ, mission, mercy, or grace?
Sure, I’m an advocate for camp. But more so, I’m advocating that you consider a bigger vision for your family and your church to give these children the best we have to offer. It takes a village and then some, let us help.
In case you’ve never heard it before, I want to extend to you an invitation. Impact 2818, the camping ministry of the Indiana Conference United Methodist Church, would like to partner with you and your church in providing a launchpad that maximizes the ministry effect on your family and faith community.