This post is one of many that I wrote last spring on summer camps. Having worked in camps for over 20 years, and now with a full house of kids myself, I hope to equip parents across the country that are looking to send their children to camp.]
My first post in this series was: Is Your Child Safe At Camp? 5 Questions Every Parent Should Ask
Summer camp is almost as American as apple pie and baseball. Movies have tried to document the uniqueness of this experience. Unfortunately, I've yet to see one that came close to pinpointing why a healthy week at summer camp is so good for a child.
When I simply take the words "summer" and "camp" and use them in the same sentence, my mind quickly jumps to mosquitos, tents, canoes, smores, and Kumbaya. Sadly, I think most picture the same thing, which falls way short of what a week of summer camp could be.
I realize for many with small kids, the idea of allowing your child to camp can be scary. Over the years, though, I have seen far too many success stories. A child who was scared, fearful or just simply didn't want to be at camp, often turns into the camper who loves it the most. There's a reason for this.
1. It's an opportunity to disconnect. Our culture is loud. I don't mean loud as in volume level. Our culture is loud in that there is all sorts of ambient noise going on all the time. Between school, sports, homework, cell phones, video games, Facebook -- to name a few -- kids today can be spread so thin they are ready to break.
When they come to camp, they turn in their cell phones, unplug their music, and begin to breathe deeply again. It is very fun to see kids surprised by a sunset, or in awe at the sound of crickets at night. Within the first two days at camp, you can begin to see the walls of protection come crashing down.
2. It's a great place to be known. Most wouldn't admit it, but we all want to be known. When you sleep in the same cabin with 7 or 8 other campers over a period of 6 days, great friendships can be formed. These friendships can become such a support throughout the year as life unfolds.
The relationship with the counselor should be the best one. I continually hear great stories of campers opening up to their counselors and sharing their souls with them. When they do, there is such a sense of relief. They can be known, and loved for who they are.
3. It's a new adventure to be experienced. Have you ever: played lazer tag in the woods, jumped off a 25 foot high ropes platform, jumped on a "blob" in a pool, or been on the back of horse? Most would say no. These experiences -- done safely -- are priceless. And when a child conquers a new adventure at camp, they quickly store it away as a reminder of their courage.
4. It's a great way to gain confidence. Even high school students can be scared at the idea of going to camp. I've talked with seniors in high school that were homesick. However, when they get through it and realize they did it, it is great to see what it does to their countenance. When a child does an activity they never thought they would do, they walk taller, as if they've found their new armor.
Being away from their parents, making new friends, trying new activities -- these all help in the child gain confidence as they grow up.
5. They just might be transformed. This is the main reason why I would want my child to go to camp. I believe God speaks to us through: His creation, His Word, and His people. When a child gets away from home, is surrounded by God's creation, and is taught the Truth of scripture, they could be transformed. I tell the staff of our youngest kids camp quite regularly to take care of our future summer staff.
As a parent, I want to fill my bag full of "tools" to help me share with my kids who Jesus is. Camp is one of the tools I plan to use.
What do you think? Is summer camp great for kids? Why or why not?
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