Camp ministries provide campers, and pastors with an important experience that can become a defining part of their Christian lives. The Georgia Baptist Mission Board operates Camp Pinnacle and Camp Kaleo, as well as hosting camps for youth at other locations.
Last year alone, Camp Pinnacle in Clayton, Ga., hosted nearly 500 girls at missions camps on its scenic property in the north Georgia mountains. Hundreds more youth visited Camp Kaleo or participated in “Impact,” “SuperWow” and “Surge150” camps. Many of them were called to faith in Christ or to a life of ministerial service through those experiences.
Lifeway Christian Research suggests five main reasons why churches should encourage kids and teenagers to attend camp.
Summer camp can often be a spiritually life-changing event for kids and teenagers. They experience God either for the first time or in new and different ways through Bible study, worship, and many other activities.
Karen Pace, children’s ministry consultant for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, says, “We’re very intentional about having gospel conversations, so [campers] have opportunities to make decisions to follow Jesus. If they’re already followers, they learn to be disciples who make disciples.”
These moments of decision become spiritual markers in their lives. A change of routine, being away from home and distractions, and having unfamiliar, godly people speak into their lives creates a unique opportunity for campers to learn and grow in their faith.
While students are at camp, away from their norm, they have opportunities to get to know each other and their leaders better as well as to make new friends from other church groups. They may even make friends for life.
They also interact with staffers who are positive role models, speaking truth into their lives and ministering to them through intentional conversations. These God-centered relationships can have a lasting impact on a child’s faith. And, perhaps most importantly, kids and students build on their relationship with God at camp.
As Luke Foster, director for the Camp Kaleo Retreat Center, says, “Jesus changes lives at camp.”
Camp schedules are usually packed with fun activities. Campers have activities to do and places to go from breakfast to bedtime. There is no chance for boredom. Camp gives them alternatives to technology and pushes them to be physically active doing activities they enjoy.
The camp setting provides a safe opportunity for children and teens to test the waters of new experiences with lessened fear of failure or rejection. They participate in new and diverse learning experiences that help them discover new talents. Camp is irreplaceable when it comes to learning and developing social skills, as well.
Many students are away from mom and dad for the very first time when they go to camp. While under the close care and supervision of trusted adults, they begin to learn responsibility. They become more resourceful and must navigate situations independently. This aids in their growing up and maturation.
Beyond the impact camp can have in the life of participants, it is also important for the church as whole to make it possible for youth to attend.
Here are five reasons you and your church should clear the path for kids and teenagers to attend camp.
A church’s willingness to send kids and teenagers to camp is a good indicator of its investment in its future church leaders and is critical to their spiritual development. Teenagers and kids of today are the church leaders of tomorrow.
Camp attendance throughout adolescence and teen years helps campers continue to grow spiritually and serve so they don’t fall away from the church once they graduate high school.
The lessons and skills students and kids learn at camp can be used when they get back home to make a difference in your church and community.
One of the goals of camp is to equip campers to do ministry at home. This is especially true with mission camps. Students learn they can visit a nursing home in their own city—not just at camp.
Students may grow in leadership skills, discover their spiritual gifts, or find their passion for worship and creative ministries—all of which can be used to serve in their churches when they get back home.
“We see kids called to missions every summer,” Pace adds. “We have career missionaries serving around the world because of what God did during summer camp.”
The amount of discipleship time at one session of camp is more time than most leaders will have with their kids or teenagers for an entire year. Most regular church attendees are at church twice a month for an hour each time.
Campers experience Bible study and worship plus have time to form deeper relationships with leaders on the bus and during free time. This sets leaders up for deeper discipleship in the fall after camp.
Planning your own camp requires significant time, energy, creativity, and people. This includes steps such as finding a camp location, writing Bible study curriculum, preparing production elements, planning recreation activities, and hiring speakers and bands. The list of necessary steps to pull off camp could go on and on. This requires your team to be experts at something they may not know anything about. It takes away their time with students or kids at camp. And for those involved in the planning, it takes away from their own families.
Attending a camp that is already planned and prepared takes significantly less time. That time can then be invested in planning regular events, building relationships with students, and studying and preparing to teach and lead.
Camp is not a vacation for children and students or for youth pastors and volunteers. They may lead Bible study and church group time. They eat meals with campers. And they spend free time with campers. They make sure campers are in bed on time and up and ready in the mornings.
At camp, leaders encounter many opportunities for great conversations, fun, and building relationships with kids and teenagers.
Summer camps foster spiritual growth, personal growth, and relationships in ways that are unlike any other traditional setting tailored for students.
Here are some next steps to prioritize camp attendance for the youth in your church:
Click on this link for information about the various 2023 camps offered by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.