My first experience at church camp was when I was 49 years old, and I loved it. It is probably safe to say that me loving church camp is not the same as a 10 year old loving church camp. The kids love the bunk houses. Everyone packed into one big room with bunk beds that can be pushed together to act as a second floor. Now that’s cool, to a kid; for me, not so much. A wafer thin mattress, kids taking constant trips to the bathroom, giggling and movement that seem endless, and an air conditioner that puts out more noise than cool air, would not be my first choice for lodging away from home. But hearing a teenager give testimony, right before lights out, about how Jesus changed his life, is worth trading in a few comforts of home.
I love the morning devotional, daily Bible lesson, morning worship and evening service. The kids will tell you that part is boring. The adults show up early and are just as much awake at the end as at the beginning. We come in quickly and leave slowly. Not the kids. They stroll in wanting to be somewhere else, barely staying awake, then dash away at record pace when dismissed. If they had their choice, these events would probably not make their schedules. When it comes to the games, competitions and swimming, the kids are ready to go for hours. Many adults enjoy the activities too, but do not share quite the same enthusiasm or energy as the kids. The kids’ metabolism converts the ball park menu in the cafeteria into energy that is burned off in minutes, while the adults talk about paying for it days after camp.
Looking at church camp through a broad lens will show kids disinterested in Bible study, prayer circles and sermons; attending camp only for the fun and the chance to be away from home. A discontented heart might assess that church camp results are not worth the effort. That first camp I attended had around 650 campers, most of them kids. Sweaty, rowdy kids, that just wanted to have fun and didn’t want to be too involved with a gospel message in any form. That’s OK, there is always next year, or the next. Every kid at camp doesn’t give his or her life to Jesus or act as if they did last year, but some do. Some come to camp with a friend and have never heard anything about Jesus. Some come with a heart filled with burdens that have never been released because there is no listening ear at home. Some come with questions and leave with answers. Some come lost and leave found. That is why I love church camp. Every year there are incredible stories about kids discovering the power of Jesus Christ; shy girls breaking out of their shells; young boys shedding tears and admitting they need a savior. As a percentage, yep, the results aren’t so great, but remember, there’s always next year.