“How we come to the Lord dictates how we relate to Him.”
Aarron Schwartz, FugeUnion Camp Pastor, June 2023
As the child of a pastor-turned-Associational Missions Strategist, I grew up in church camp. Every summer since I was 10, I would spend at least one week of my summer at my local association’s church camp. Even before then, I spent a couple summers at camp as the camp pastor’s kid. I loved it.
So, as a lifelong church-camper, let me say this: please choose church camp.
Our lives are so busy. We are constantly going from one thing to the next. I understand that yes, church camp is also one more thing to do each summer. But it is so worth the time you give. And it will definitely be worth the time you give your kids to go to church camp each year.
Let me be clear, I am an indoors, book-reading, quilting type of girl. I do not enjoy being outside more than I need to – mostly because I am pale and mosquitos LOVE me. But church camp is a different experience. After all, if your buddies are with you at least you’re not sweating it out alone, right?
When I hit junior high, I was old enough to attend Centrifuge (Fuge) with my church’s youth group. I attended both camps, Fuge and Sandy Creek Association Church Camp, throughout my teenage years. Then, after taking a break to work during my college summers then eventually marry, my husband and I have had the privilege to work at our local association’s camp and chaperone multiple years of Centrifuge with our church.
John and I were able to chaperone again for Centrifuge in June. This year was particularly good – the type of week we want our students to have. Our week’s worship team and camp pastor made it clear that they would not dictate how we are to worship. They only asked that we were obedient to the Holy Spirit. They were adamant about creating an environment for students to truly seek the Lord rather than their feelings. They set the tone.
And we saw God work through our group. Multiple students came to Christ. They were not swayed by external things. They were obedient to the Holy Spirit.
Here’s what they heard throughout the week:
- God doesn’t love you because He made you. God made you because He loves you. (Psalm 139)
- Only our Creator can tell us what we’re worth. God creates us. God assigns our purpose. God assigns our value. (Genesis 1)
- When we need something, God is going to provide it. (Genesis 2:18-25)
- When we don’t believe God loves us and do believe He is holding out on us, we are ripe for temptation. (Genesis 3)
- Repentance is the greatest act of praise we can give.
- Sacrifice helps us understand how loved we are. (John 3)
- What does it look like for God’s image to be shared through us instead of our own image and preference? (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- God doesn’t want your commitment, He wants your surrender. When you surrender, the Holy Spirit fills you. And when you are pressed, Jesus comes out. (Matthew 28)
That is more than I should probably list in a blog post, but you need to see the arc of teaching. Each statement above came from biblical truth. We were in Genesis, Psalms, 2 Corinthians, John, and Matthew. Every action pointed back to Jesus. God used that week to reach our students. He used that week to reach me. Again.
It’s hard to have that type of impact on any given student throughout the year. Church camp is an experience that takes you away from your everyday life to help you understand God more. Time away from home to allow you to explore who God is to you. Church camp is another form of discipleship with activites and goofy water games peppered in. It sparks children and students to seek the Lord intentionally on their own and gives them the opportunity to safely do that no matter their home life.
As an adult coming back over and over again, I am renewed through hearing God’s word each time. I am renewed by seeing people’s lives changed. I am renewed by witnessing when Jesus becomes real to a student for the first time.
As a student who returned each year to camp, I’ve seen camps that take advantage of how vulnerable students can be away from home. I’ve seen leadership focus on big feelings that lead to groupthink and hollow commitments rather than listening to the Holy Spirit and allowing God to do the work. I’m sure they still exist today. However, I believe the reckoning that has come to many denominations has weeded out leadership that would take advantage of this particularly vulnerable situation. So, I urge you to seek out a camp that is like the one I witnessed last month. One like our local association’s camp.
As a parent, church leader, or possible camp leader, be intentional as you seek where you, your child, or group will go. Clearly, find a safe place. Find a camp that raises the Lord high, rather than any one person or group. Seek the Lord as you pursue which camp is right for your situation.
Don’t let all the other “stuff” get in the way of this type of retreat. It’s too important.
If you need suggestions for where or when to go, ask your pastor. Reach out to IBSA. Seek out your local Associational Missions Strategist. I’m sure they all have worthy camp suggestions. And if you’ve missed your chance this year, perhaps this is the kick you need to mark it on your calendar next year.
No matter your situation, please choose church camp. It will always be worth it.
Written by Leah Honnen. Leah Honnen is a wife, momma, and infertility warrior living in Jacksonville, IL. She is a homemaker and volunteers at her church, but loves spending time fixing up her pre-1920s home with her husband, John. Leah writes on the lessons she continues to learn in daily life – through infertility, motherhood, music, friendships, and more on Instagram @leahhonnen.