Summer is a time to make memories. It’s the perfect time to go camping with your family, hike, try new cultures, and go kayaking. But there’s one part of summer that kids and parents alike look forward to – and that’s camp!
I remember the first time we sent our kids to camp. They were 7 and 8 and I was nervous. I knew that there were adults overseeing things, but teenaged cabin leaders made me wonder how secure and safe my kids would feel. I was the kind of kid that was always unsure about new environments, and my first camp experience was at a much older age. This camp was only 2-3 days, but I still wondered if they would be homesick, and even wondered if I’d be homesick for them.
In the end, all of my concerns were unnecessary; they had an amazing time and couldn’t wait to go back. I also enjoyed the time it gave us to focus on ourselves, which is something that we haven’t done for a very long time. It is definitely something we want to keep up, even when the kids aren’t at camp.I’ve been speaking at camps for over 7 years now, and I’ve seen some incredible things happen in the lives of the kids there.
Here are 7 reasons to consider sending your kids to camp this summer:
1. New friends – going to camp is an incredible opportunity for your children to meet friends from different places, with different backgrounds and different frames of reference. I’ve seen some of these friendships last a lifetime. Some kids may be Christians and some may not be, but it’s the perfect environment for open discussions on faith.
2. Evangelism – seeing others encounter Jesus for the first time is incredibly life giving and the opportunity to see faith shared by leaders and camp speakers is deeply impacting. Unlike their public school world, discussions on faith are normal and expected. Our children will grow in their comfort and confidence level as they openly discuss their faith.
3. Own their own faith – camp can be our kid’s first opportunity to own their own faith, or even start their faith journey. It is a unique environment where the combination of independence and separation from their primary source of faith influence allows them the opportunity to learn, and more importantly ask, hard questions that they may have never thought of. Questions that they may be embarrassed to ask because they “should” know the answer. Camp gives them the chance to ask, to hear others ask and to own the answers for themselves.
4. Leadership – when they are lead by others in a camp environment, particularly others who are closer to their age, they will see the opportunity to lead themselves. It becomes attainable and a desire and goal that they can pursue. When they mention people they saw serving, encourage them to pursue leadership at camp, help them look forward to being CIT’s (Counselors in Training) in the future. Camp is an amazing environment for the servant leadership development of your children!
5. Discipleship – camp is a chance for your children to be discipled by others who are closer to their age, which means they have others to look up to and model after. They often don’t see that in their parents because we are too far removed in life stage. When our children have a choice to follow or not, and others to look up to, they can be forever changed. This is often something they are looking for and drawn to anyway.
6. Life lessons – they will learn lessons like keeping their room clean and cleaning up after themselves at meals. There is no one to clean up after them and everyone is held to the same standards, so they don’t let down their whole cabin. It’s their first opportunity to experience the need to care for themselves without mom and dad, in a safe and encouraging environment. Seeing that expectations are universal makes phrases like “it’s not fair” or “I don’t want to” void.
7. Learning and growing – sermons and testimonies told in their language, with illustrations that make sense. These things are taught in an environment that is rich and prepared specifically for them. Their hearts are open and softened through relationship and community. Essentially it’s their first real taste of what Church should be!
You may be thinking that sending your kid to camp at 7 or 8 is outrageous. The age that you send your children to camp is a very personal parenting choice that I don’t want to get in the way of. However, regardless of age, I would encourage you to consider camp before they lose interest in older peer influence. The benefits, as you to can see, are incredible.
It’s also worth noting that you should be intentional about the camp you choose for your kids. Interview the camp director; ask about what is taught and where they intend to take your children spiritually. Ask how they plan on taking them on that journey. Find out if the Gospel will be shared and what their dream and goals for your child are as a result of their time with them.
There is nothing quite like the power of camp to deeply influence your children. As you pray, may God reveal to you the when and where of camp potential for your children and family.Dave McVety
Assistant Director @ Doing Family Right