The Good Ole’ Days of Summer Camp
Do you remember what it was like to be a kid? Granted, some of us have to think back further than others, but we can all agree that one of the most highly anticipated events of the year was summer camp. The excitement of knowing that school is over for the entire summer, you get to sleep in, watch morning cartoons, eat the junky cereal when mom and dad go to work, and get to go outside and play with all the neighborhood kids all day until the street lights camp on.
But still, nothing could truly measure up to the exhilaration of knowing in just a couple of short weeks, you'd be off to summer camp for an entire week. No parents, only a few rules, all the junk food you could eat from the snack shop, games with your friends all day long, and of course, the late-night bonfires, where you would swap ghost stories and make memories that would last a lifetime.
And then there was packing. You had to make sure you brought just the right things. A swimming suit, an extra pair of pants, your good sneakers, underwear (but only because your mom made you), and a toothbrush because you weren't a complete animal. But the packing definitely didn't end with clothes. In fact, you mostly packed clothes because you knew you could never get away with not taking them. But the essential things were the squirt guns, the action figures, and the toy army guns that you would use to have all the crazy imagined adventures with your cabin mates.
Now, surely the packing would end there, right? Of course not. You had to bring your candy from home, too, and junk food. You just had to make sure that you did it without getting caught. Remember those bags of Doritos and packs of Oreos and candy bars that you would sneak into your bag after mom had checked to make sure you had all these proper essentials? Those were the days. But the best part came when you got to camp. The thrill of learning who your counselor would be and all the different people in your cabin. Were you going to get the cool kid from class or the weird class clown? No one would know. It was a mystery until you got there. But regardless of who was in your cabin, you knew that it was going to be one of the best experiences of your year.
You'd say goodbye to your parents and follow your counselor to your cabin, where you would settle in for the week. You made sure to stash your bag with all the junk food under your bunk so the counselor wouldn't take it away, and then you'd race out the door to see what adventures wait on the other side.
Even though being an adult definitely has its perks, there are moments we can all pause and look back on our childhoods and wish that we could go back, even just for a moment, and relive some of the best memories of our lives. Those we made at summer camp will stay with us forever, and maybe one day, we will be driving our own children to camp so they can make memories of their own.
How Christian Are Christian Camps?
If you've ever been to a Christian camp, you know it's not your typical camp experience. Your day is often interjected with happenings such as a Chapel service or breakout sessions that will include scripture reading, scripture memorization, or other activities geared towards leading a camper deeper into their faith. In most cases, campers are not only okay with these added elements, but they also rather enjoy them. These breakout sessions often segway to deeper discussions that can lead to deeper connections amongst their cabin mates. But a question does loom: how Christian are Christian camps? The answer depends upon the camp itself. In my experience, and I have quite a vast one, a Christian camp environment can range from extremely fundamental to what one may consider outside the parameters of what a Christian faith would look like. However, for the sake of this article, we will focus on your average Christian camp to get a more in-depth view of how one is typically run.
When one thinks of Christians, praise and worship, some form of Bible teaching, and a very kumbaya environment often come to mind. At your average Christian camp, this is very much the case. When planning a summer camp experience for the children to attend, camp leaders will strategize for months and work out Bible plans to help their campers deepen their understanding of Scripture. Many camps also will hire a guest speaker. This guest speaker will be well known in Christian communities to show the credibility of the camp at which they speak. After all, parents will want peace of mind that the camp they're sending their children to will teach values that align with their own at home. This speaker, too, will plan their messages in advance to align with the theme of the camp at which they are speaking. This provides a fluid and cohesive message for campers to understand best what is being said throughout the week.
Camps will hire a worship leader for the entire summer to have praise and worship at each of their Chapel services. Usually, the song selections include your top hits of that year and some classical hymns mixed throughout the sets. Praise and worship time is often a camp favorite as it gives the campers a chance to express themselves through song as they come together in one big group. Breakout sessions are also a considerable part of the Christian camp experience. Here's where the counselors get a chance to know their campers and pour into them as they discuss what has been talked about in service throughout the week. These sessions are the most intimate as they typically are broken down by cabins, so campers can interact and speak more than they would in a big group. Lasting friendships are often formed throughout the sessions, as they tackle the most challenging parts of a young person's life head-on. While there are many other elements to a Christian camp, these are the ones that set it apart from your stereotypical summer camp. So, how Christian is a Christian camp? Well, it is Christian, after all, so I would say very much so, but isn't that the point?