Howard Hendrix once said that 85 percent of the determinative decisions young people make, they make at camp. It is important to get your kids to camp, but it is also important for you to find out what God did in their lives while at camp. If you know how God has worked in their lives, you can help the follow-through process.
You can do this by asking leading questions, such as the examples below. You’ll notice that it is best to start with general questions, then as your son or daughter loosens up, get more and more specific.
There is one more thing to remember: when your son or daughter arrives home, they will be tired, so you might let them get a good night of sleep and then take them out to breakfast or lunch the next day. Get them away from the TV and the distractions around the house to get them to talk to you about camp.
1. Tell me about your week.
This question is designed to just get your son or daughter to talk to you. Your kids will come back from camp full of emotions. In addition, they will have doubts and they will ask themselves questions like:
- What just happened?
- Can I live up to the commitments I made?
- How can I survive apart from the camp culture?
By getting your son or daughter to just talk about camp you can help them work through some of those questions, and you can also pledge your support for whatever God is doing in their lives.
2. What was your favorite part of camp?
As a parent, you need to know what things got your kid’s attention, what he or she enjoyed doing and what really excited them. When you know what they really like you can follow up with family activities or find ways to help your kid network with church groups or school clubs that will help them to grow.
3. What was your least favorite part of camp?
This is where you can make a difference in the camp of your choice. As a camp director, I can tell you that I need to hear from parents if there are things at camp that are out of order. Your son may say, “Wow, I loved camp but the food was awful,” or maybe, “My counselor was just bad,” or “The meetings were too long.” Now, before you jump on the bandwagon, ask some more questions. What was bad about the food, or the counselor, or the meetings? If it is just a matter of preference, talk through that with your kid, but if your son or daughter had a bad experience that you think is more than that, please call or write an e-mail to the camp and let them know. You will never find a perfect camp, but all camp directors want to make their camp the best it can be.
4. What activities did you enjoy the most?
At our teen camps, we try to have as many different activities as possible so that every counselor can help every camper find something that interests them. It is good for you to know what your son or daughter really enjoyed doing. Teens change so fast that sometimes you don’t realize that their interests have changed. By knowing what they really enjoyed at camp, you can plan ways to build on that.
5. What was the schedule like?
This is a question you need to keep pursuing. Dig deep – what was your normal day like? What time did you get up? When did you eat breakfast? What did you do between breakfast and lunch? What happened after lunch? Ask enough questions to be able to imagine a day of camp. I think you’ll find that although kids don’t like to be boxed in, they do like structure.
6. Tell me about your counselor.
Statistics tell us that campers remember their counselor more than any one thing at camp, so find out about the counselor. Find out how the counselor related to your kid. Find out what your son or daughter learned from their counselor and what they want to emulate about them.
7. Tell me about the speakers.
Remember, most teens make significant decisions at camp, so it would be good for you to know about the speaker, and his/her topics, style and the subjects of the talks.
8. Tell me about the meetings.
Camp is built around meetings, and you want to know what they were like. Was your son or daughter excited about the meetings, the music, the skits, etc.? Find out the subjects and ask about the style. At Word of Life, we want to hear our campers say that we were biblical but socially relevant.
9. Did you hear any talks that were meaningful to you?
Now we are starting to get really personal, but I think to keep digging. What was said that struck a chord in your kid’s heart? What connected? What made him or her think about priorities, mission, character or their relationship with God? What inspired them or motivated them? If you can get a glimpse into what stirred them you can follow through with prayer, advice or even a plan.
10. What did you learn at camp that made a significant difference in your life?
At some point, you really need to come right out and ask, did you make any decisions at camp that have the potential to change your life? The purpose is not to pry but to lend support, pray for and nurture what God has begun at camp.
Camp brings life change, and in turn youth can change the world with the right motivations and the right perspective. Take the time to think through the follow up with your teen and believe in the power of camp.
Tom Phillips is the director of teen camp ministry and music at Word of Life Youth and Family Camps. For more information, please visit www.experienceWOL.org.
Publication date: June 30, 2015