We recently had our winter camp for our high school and junior high students at our church. It was really nice to get away from the chaos of our normal day-to-day lives and goof around, throw snow balls at each other, and worship Jesus. I left camp feeling exhausted physically, yet refreshed spiritually. Camps are amazing, but also, let’s not be naïve, these camps can also be harmful.
The good about Christian camps:
Camp is a blast, with lots of free time to explore or do activities.
One of the big reasons why kids love camp is because it’s great chance to get away from parents and be with their friends and have lots of fun. Many camps have activities available during scheduled free time like zip lining, rock climbing, archery, paintballing, and many more activities. There’s often team competitions and hilarious and entertaining up front games on stage.
Get alone with God
Jesus made a practice of getting alone with the Father, which shows us the importance of getting away with God. Life is often times an endless pursuit of balancing stress and our seemingly endless list of things to do. Making time to be with Jesus can be hard, so getting away from everything can be a meaningful time of alone time with Jesus.
Feeling like everyone loves Jesus
It’s a really cool feeling knowing that the overwhelming majority at Christian camps are Christians. I know that there are, for sure, kids and probably even some workers who don’t follow Jesus, but most people at camp follow Jesus. There’s definitely a different energy among camp goers – one to meet Jesus and glorify Him with their lives.
I love this energy and it makes me think that this energy is a glimpse into what Heaven will be like, where every knee will bow and confess Jesus as Lord (Phil. 2:10) and believers will all be together worshipping Jesus in Heaven. We don’t get this kind of energy in our daily lives, so experiencing it at camp is powerful and beautiful.
Develop deeper relationships
In order to have a healthy Christian life, we need lasting Christian friendships. We weren’t created to do life in isolation. We need Godly relationships, which refresh us, encourage us, and convict us. So, going to camp and having ample time to deepen current relationships. Friendships grow more deeper as friends, with each other, grow deeper with God. This will also make our churches more healthy, since people will have a deeper connection with each other, which will make us more ready to fulfill God’s purposes for His church. So, Christian camps are a great time to deepen existing relationships.
The not so good about Christian camps:
Thinking that feeling of closeness to Jesus can only happen at camp
The intimate feeling with Jesus up at camp is something that is hard to describe. Your connection with Jesus seems to feel amplified when you’re away at camp. Then, you come home and things can often feel different. We might think we can only have that closeness with Jesus when we’re away at camp. We try to get close outside of camp, but it just doesn’t seem to work out in our favor. The truth is, we can be close to Jesus anywhere we make Him a priority.
Settle for information, not transformation
When we go to camp, we learn a lot of things through speakers on stage, or things like camp time or one-on-one times with leaders or counselors. We can consume all this information and settle for just being informed, but God’s purpose all along is us being transformed. To be fair, this can happen at many places other than camp, but it bears pointing out when addressing Christian camps. We should take all the information in, but we should apply what we learned, which allows Jesus to transform us.
Camp can make you want to stay within a Christian bubble.
One of the really cool aspects of Christian camps is that everyone, or at least most people, attending the camp is a follower of Jesus. This makes the camp experience something really special. There is something different in the air.
Jesus is working through those people in a powerful way, and, here is the problem, we can prefer to always live within a Christian bubble. We can love being occasionally within the Christian bubble (i.e. only around other Christians), but this can’t be for very long. Jesus sends us into the world to use us to glorify Himself among unbelievers. Leaving the Christian bubble is part of the Christian life.
Christian camps are ran by many wonderful followers of Jesus who want their camp to bring people closer to Jesus. To be clear, I don’t think these camps have anything to do with negative effects of camp. It’s all on camp goers. However, things can easily change for the better.
Let’s go to camp, have a blast, appreciate all the hard work of the camp staff, make Jesus a priority in our lives, but let’s also keep the Christ-centered promises we make up at camp.