Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Church camp

Church camp for young people is something my denomination has emphasized at least since the 1920s. Every association sponsors summer camps. I have many good memories of fun times at camp, but not so many about any real growth in spiritual formation. At Between The Times, Alvin Reid expresses his views about summer youth camps and one of his concerns is something I have also felt, and not just in this context.
.... If parents expect children who attend a football camp or basketball camp to come back with demonstrably greater knowledge of and capability in their given sport, students returning from a church/ministry camp should return with a demonstrably greater knowledge of and capability in living for Jesus.

Too often in the church youth are treated like they are ten instead of teens. So, there is a shift, at least among many, from silliness to seriousness in student ministry, and that includes camps. Don’t get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with having in a five day camp times to relax, to play, and to build teams. But youth camps should not be obsessed with rec time or the annual talent show; they should be possessed with a passion for Jesus. ....
And Reid keeps coming back to that point:
  • I believe the reason we lose many of our students after high school comes from how little we expect from them up until that point.
  • Students learn trigonometry in high school, so they can learn theology in camps. No, do not set up a boring teacher with a 2-hour lecture daily. You need people who can communicate!
  • Play time, especially if you give a lot of truth to students (many of whom quite honestly are accustomed to baby food at church), does matter. But I love camps that have a purpose to that as well.
I spent thirty-five years teaching that age group in public schools.  Required 9th grade history classes made up at least half of my teaching load each year and up to a third of the students in those classes were mainstreamed special ed kids. They were fully capable of grasping complex ideas if they were presented well. Low expectations result in boredom and ignorance. And that is just as true with youth groups and camps.

Thoughts on Youth Camps « Between The Times