Church camp. It is an essential part of the summer experience. I have fond memories of my childhood with weeks spent in a cabin in the woods. I filled several college summers leading week after week of camp. Now as an adult, I get to accompany one of my children to church camp each year. As a church leader and as a parent, I want to warn you about church camp confessions.
Church Camp is a Great Opportunity
Church camp is a vital part of the faith development of our children. Ministry events, such as retreats and camp, that last longer than just a few hours are potent tools to help break down barriers and develop deeper relationships. It takes time for many of us to let our hair down to be genuinely open to others. Camp gives us the time to open up to others and open up to new ideas.
#1 Be Cautious and Discerning About Church Camp
Thus, we need to be cautious about church camp. Church camp is a powerful force for good with godly leadership. Church camp can be a seductive force for wrong with immature and ungodly leadership. Trust me; I have seen way too much at different church camps over the years.
Some counselors go because they themselves want to be a kid at camp again. They can be more foolish than the actual children at camp. I witnessed ideas and behaviors modeled that would not have been allowed by the leaders of my home congregation.
Do not assume that the camp your child goes to has a biblical worldview or fits with the values of your congregation. Do not assume that the rules posted on the website are enforced.
Ask tough questions. Do not only ask about the theology and moral truths expressed at camp. Also, ask discerning questions about supervision and child safety policies.
Our Church Stopped Attending our Denomination Camp
Our church did just that. After returning from church camp one year, our youth went to the Elders are shared with some of the things taught at camp and how it did not line up with the beliefs of our congregation.
The next year, the congregation intentionally choose to go somewhere else. Now, parents from the congregation are the counselors that attend camp. There is a much stronger sense of accountability and connection.
#2 Children are Vulnerable at Church Camp Confession
The second reason why we need to be careful about a church camp confession is that Church camp is an emotionally vulnerable time. Students are away from their families and the familiar comforts of home.
They are TIRED. Their counselor is waking them up way too early in the morning. They are falling into bed way later than they do at home. Then, they are giggling and talking past lights out. Plus, they are with other kids ALL DAY LONG. Even the extroverted kids eventually need some downtime and some peace and quiet.
Worship is often geared directly to the age of the children. Many times the music choices are encouraging an emotional high as well. Leaders should always be careful in discerning if the music is aiding worship or if it is artificially creating “worship.”
#3 Church Camp can have a Powerful Spiritual Impact
Thirdly, we must take caution with the powerful spiritual impact that church camp can have on our children in positive and negative ways. We send our children to camp with the hope that they will feel closer to Jesus. Church camp is a set apart time to focus on our relationship with Jesus and with our fellow Christians.
For many children, this is when they are first expected to have a morning quiet time. During a week in their regular lives, they might have a Bible lesson once on Sunday morning and another on Wednesday night.
At church camp, they are in boot camp. There are Bible lessons several times a day. Faith messages are weaved through the games and the rest of the activities as well. Daily worship helps to focus us on keeping our eyes on Jesus and the gospel message.
#4 A Church Camp Confession Needs to Be Accompanied with Discipleship
Often in this environment, children will make their first profession of faith. In the busyness of family life and the routine of church programs, sometimes adults forget to make a concise and understandable presentation of the gospel.
Children need to hear more than just the stories of the Bible. They need to listen to the gospel message and be given a chance to respond. We can’t just assume that children that grow up in the church are Christians; they have to accept Jesus for themselves. Students can’t be discipled until they have been evangelized.
Church Camp Confession: But they’ve already been baptized?
So, what happens when a child who has already been baptized makes a profess of faith? Were they not saved before? Was their salvation experience not dramatic enough and now they are ready to true emotional commitment?
Some of our response to their questions will be based on our background or church experiences. Some folks believe that if you have not had a “Damascus Road Experience,” then you have not genuinely be saved.
I think that how you come to believe in Jesus can be influenced by your personality. Extroverted personalities are more likely to have a more boisterous conversion experience. Introverted and quiet personalities are going to open to the Son like a flower opening in bloom. The beauty and faith are there to see, but the bloom did not fully open overnight.
It’s not just about a Confession, but a Journey.
Certainly, mature Christians know that the journey of faith is one of perseverance. There are parts of the path that are easy and joyful. Conversely, there are other parts of the way that are lonely and dark. Occasionally on the journey, we can feel like we are walking alone without Christ. Indeed, the busyness of our lives can crowd Christ out of our close circle and to the back of the pack.
Drawing near to God can bring the spark back to the lives of adult Christians as well. For example, when we renew our Bible reading or a commitment to a small group. When we commit to a daily time of worship, we draw closer to God.
Attending a Christian conference or retreat will often result in a mountain-top experience for us as well. With maturity, we know that we do not need to be saved again – but we may feel the need to reaffirm our commitment to Christ.
Second Confessions: Were they saved?
After making a second confession of faith at camp, your child may struggle with wondering if they had been saved in the first place. Absolutely, the Great Deceiver loves for us to wrestle with doubt over our salvation. Are we really saved? Are we really loved?
What does the Bible say?
“If you have confessed with your mouth and believe in your heart
that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Real faith is not lived out in the holy retreat of church camp. In fact, real faith is lived out in the busyness of school and sports. It is lived out surrounded by other students who are not Christians. More precisely, it is lived out in a world that seeks to draw us away from Christ.
Therefore, we must teach our children how to draw near to Christ throughout their life.
- Daily quiet time and study of God’s word.
- Frequent worship personally and with the community of believers.
- Gathering together with others at church to be challenged and to serve.
Ultimately although we can’t live at church camp, we can bring back with us the intentionality of weaving Christ in and through our day.