The coming of Spring means summer is fast approaching. Now is the time to plan ahead (if you haven’t already) for bringing the kids in your family ministry to a summer camp. Here are 4 things I think you should know about Christian summer camps:
1. Camp is Often THE Highlight of a Kid’s Year – or Life
Kids will often remember these experiences until they day they die. Why? Because summer camp touches the deepest parts of our senses and needs in life. In my opinion, summer camp is one of the most effective forms of ministry and outreach to kids. The rest of this article will explain why I think that.
2. Taking Kids to an Exciting New World Opens Up Their Hearts and Minds
A few weeks ago, my wife and I took our toddler daughter to the local petting zoo. My daughter is 17 months old and had been cooped up indoors for much of this past winter. When she finally met the live goats and sheet (things she had only known from picture books), her face lit up, she danced, she talked incessantly, and her overall demeanor was illuminated.
This is what happens when you bring your kids to summer camp. They get away from the video games and television and finally breath fresh air in a new and wonderful place, where they can safely explore and play. This does something remarkable to their hearts, minds, and spirits. It opens them up in fresh ways that would otherwise not be opened back home on their familiar turf. It is then that we take these open hearts and show them the love of Jesus Christ.
3. Christian Camping is About “Making Space”
I once heard recording artist Michael Card share about the idea of “making space” for God to do His work in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We make space by taking Sabbaths, spending quiet times in prayer, and going to places where we remove all the clutter so that we can hear and see God more clearly. Jesus was in the business of making space for the Father to move in the lives of those around Him. Summer camp is a ministry of “making space” for God to work in these kids’ lives. We take them far away from home, give them plenty of spaces to move around and play, and then we watch as God does amazing things.
4. Summer Camp is All Over the Bible
God placed Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden, not a video arcade. God led Abraham far from his home to set up “camp” in a new promised land. Joseph left home (not by his own accord) and ended up thriving in this far-from-home atmosphere. Ruth and Naomi left their familiar home, only to find God’s blessing on their lives in their new settlement. Shepherd boy David could have stayed home with his father and animals, but he made the long journey to his brothers’ “camp” and discovered that God had big plans for him at camp.
And then there’s Joshua, Jonah, Esther, Daniel – all who found God’s favor only after they made a bold journey or were uprooted from what was familiar to them. Don’t forget the New Testament – like Mary and Joseph, the 12 disciples, Paul, and Peter. Even John received the vision that became Revelation when he was far away on a tiny Greek island called Patmos.
It doesn’t take long to realize that most heroes of the Bible were not the kind of people who stayed in their comfortable home and town all year-round. They went away (either intentionally or unintentionally) and God did great things. I believe God will do great things in the lives of your kids, parents, chaperones, teenagers, pastors – everyone who goes to camp. There’s something about going far away that makes space for God to do what He does best – change us.
No more excuses. Sign up for a Christian summer camp and take all your kids. Empower parents with the information that will let them know the importance of summer camp (like this article). I would recommend starting at http://www.ccca.org/ to search for a quality Christian summer camp or retreat center.
What is your camp story? Why do you think summer camp is so important?
At first, this is very frightening. But after years of practicing the shorter unicycle, I found that once I took that first “leap of faith” onto the tall unicycle and rode it for a bit, it was just like riding the shorter one, just higher in the air. This was taken at Highland Lakes Camp in Spicewood, Texas at a camp for about 850 kids. My next goal is to juggle while idling in place on the tall unicycle.
I have stumbled upon an immensely wonderful game to play with elementary age children. It works especially well with very large groups (even hundreds of kids). I play it with kids at the camps I visit in the summertime and most every kid seems to love playing it.
It’s called, “If You’re Happy and You Know It….”. We’ve all heard of it. But there is a twist I put on it that has endless possibilities. I’m sure plenty of people have done this twist before. Basically, you sing the song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands.” The kids will of course clap. This starts the game. Then you sing the line again and change the words to anything you like, such as “If you’re from Mississippi clap your hands” or “If you’ve ever kissed a frog clap your hands” or “If you can name all four of the Beatles clap your hands”, and so on and so forth. The kids will clap their hands after your line if their answer is positive to your questions. If you do a question that requires proof, such as the one about naming the Beatles, point to a kid that clapped their hands and ask them to name the Beatles.
The kids never tire of this game. You could go on and on and on. They love answering all the different questions that come up in the game and clapping their hands to it. I make a list of 30 or 40 lines to the song each time I play the game with the kids.
I’ve got a dozen or so lists that I’ve made over the past 3 summers in playing this game at camps. So I’ve probably got about 400 or 500 different lines to the game written down. Again, the possibilities are endless.
Here are a few more examples:
If you have red hair….
If you can juggle 3 balls…
If you were born in another country….
If you can speak another language…
If you are a twin….
If you still sleep with a blankie….
If you do your own laundry….
If you are homeschooled…
I think you get the point. Come up with your own list and have fun getting to know those kids in ways you never knew you could!
I am here in Hordville, Nebraska at Covenant Cedars Christian Camp. It is part of the Evangelical Covenant denomination, which stands for solid Christian doctrine and the authority of God’s Word. Something I really like about this denomination is its diversity on the more peripheral issues that tend to split denominations out there.
Anyway, I want to share one neat thing we did last night with the kids at camp that I think worked really well. The theme this week is “I AM.” So we are looking at various “I am” statements in the Bible where Jesus identifies Himself (light of the world, bread of life, alpha and omega, etc.). Last night, the focus statement was “I am the Light of the world.”). So we gave the kids a night walk with stations along the way. They walked with their cabins and learned a Bible verse about God being the Light at each station. I was the final station at the beach of the lake. Across the lake, we had built a campfire on a hill. So I stood the kids along the edge of the water and had them look at the blazing campfire shining brightly on the hill in the night sky. I told them about Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 where He said, “A city on a hill cannot be hidden…therefore, let your light shine before men so that they may praise your Father in heaven.” It was a fantastic visual illustration of the verse.
The kids were exhausted (it was about 11pm). So after my station, I told them to just go to bed (except for a few that won the games that day and got to have night pool time). Don’t ask me where they get all this energy for camp, but I guess the midday naps help out. Camp is fun. Camp is exhausting. And may God bless the ministry here at Camp Cedars.
Camp Dixie is a Christian camp in Fayetteville, NC and I had the chance to speak at their “Beginner’s Camp” this past week (1st-4th graders). I had a blast at this camp. They had a theme called “Secrets of the Realm” and decked out the camp in Medieval decor. So I ran with that theme and played the character of a storytelling jester from Saxony who was sharing the secrets of the Bible with the kids at the risk of beheading by the evil King Jathan. So I enlisted the help of some Thespian-inclined camp counselors. King Jathan was, of course, defeated by the end of the week by the good King Gregory (who served the Lord), who ran in at the last moment to save my head from being chopped off by Jathan when Jathan caught me red-handed with the Book from the High King of Heaven in my hand. Jathan and Gregory ensued in a struggle of swords, then “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” and finally, arm-wrestling. Gregory won the day, and the kids loved it. There were other parts of the plot, including fair maidens (who were kidnapped) and even a pie-in-the-face scene, but I won’t get into all that.
I normally do not have such elaborate themes with which to work (or rather, I have not taken full advantage of themes given to me in the past). I learned a great deal this past week – namely that kids love story. Yes, I juggle a lot. But even juggling can get boring if it is not couched in a story. When the juggling I do is part of a larger story, then I really enjoy the journey – and the kids give me a ton of feedback showing me that they are “with it.” Kids would ask me throughout the week if Gregory was going to make it – or if Jathan was going to show up that night. There was a level of anticipation to see how the plot would unfold – and anticipation is really what keeps the attention of human beings, especially kids. My prayer is that the ultimate story of Jesus, his death, and resurrection would envelop the kids while we do all of our silly skits, dramas, VBS’s, camps, etc. I would love to learn more about the great art of storytelling. Let me know if you have some good references on storytelling as an art form. Have a great day. – Jesse