Okay, I admit it. I am NOT a big fan of age-segregated, youth-centered "ministry" that creates a false community defined by peer groups and current youth fads. Schools, sports teams, and even churches conspire relentlessly to remove young people from the broader context of family and community, placing them instead in an artificial world characterized by narrow age groups and the latest teen or preteen or college culture.
I've never been big on the idea of summer camp, either: highschool camp, junior high camp, elementary camp, even senior camp. Do we have so little in common that we can't benefit from spending a little time together?
But here it is, July 19th, and I find myself at church camp. Yes, I've been converted. Sort of. Let me explain....
Last year, Grace Community Church held it's first ever summer camp. Being a young church plant (we were still just getting our feet underneath us, so to speak), we were very excited about working together as a body to create a camp that would be fun for our kids and that would benefit the body of Grace as a whole. We also wanted camp to be an outreach to people in the community. The end product? Not a youth camp, but a family camp....moms and dads, kids and grandparents, teachers and students. Of course, not every child who attended had a parent there. Not every adult had a child. But what we did have was a multi-generational, absolutely phenomenal B-L-A-S-T.
We rented the lodge facility at a nearby state park. Girls and women filled one half of the divided bunk house, boys and men the other. As a mom and older woman in the church, it was a delight and a blessing to me to see junior-high girls help care for and entertain 18-month-old Emily. And high school girls, jamming out with the younger girls who admired them so much. Teenage boys, pushing kindergartners on the swings. Jacob, part of my K-3 study group, teamed up with Art, a college professor, to help guide afternoon hikes down the park's beautiful hiking trails. Before supper, it wasn't unusual for a group of kids and grownups to join in a game of horseshoes or ringtoss. The entire camp was a fun time...spent together.
In fact, we had so much fun that we're doing it again. Right now. Two other churches are joining us for camp, along with a handful of campers from the Boys and Girls Club of Union City, and this year we are at an actual camp facility. The Reelfoot Youth Camp complex includes two bunk houses, a Rec center, swimming pool, disc golf course, soccer field, assembly hall, commercial kitchen....all kinds of cool amenities. Morgan's granddaddy is helping with crafts. Our college students are working with Travis to organize and supervise games and sports in the afternoons. Mornings, I'm teaching K-3rd grade with the help of another mom - Yay! Again, we have mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, teenagers and preschoolers, pastors and elders, all working and worshipping and learning and playing together. Folks, this is summer camp - as good as it gets!
If your church is considering participating some way in summer camps, let me recommend skipping the typical age-segregated camp system. Instead of sending your kids to camp, go with your kids to camp. Start planning now for an amazing family camp experience next summer.
(For a glimpse at how much fun we had at last year's summer camp, click here and scroll down to 2010 Youth Camp.)
2 days ago