Summer camp makes kids tough

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Susan R's picture
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Since 5/6/09 20:48:52
4366 posts
Not a fan of camp

I really don't get how people implicitly trust a bunch of counselors and staff that they've never met before. 'Looking them in the eye' and shaking their hand tells me little about them except the color of their iris and whether or not they have sweaty palms. I don't believe that anyone can ascertain someone else's character by staring at them. And character references only go so far, because you are now trusting someone else's judgment about who is going to be in charge of your child, waking and sleeping, for an entire week.

That gives me serious chills.

I went to camps as a teen, have been a counselor, and have sent my own kids to camp until the last few years. Every summer there was at least one 'incident' of serious misbehavior amongst the campers or the staff that made dh and I just throw in the towel on camp- it is simply not worth it to us. Many of these incidents were swept under the rug, and parents never notified of what happened, even when it concerned their own child. (serious meaning immoral or illegal)

I am sure many kids have a great time at camp, and there are good camps and good counselors. It would be silly to assume that my experiences are universal. But camp, IMO, is not some kind of necessity for growing Godly or 'tough' kids. My dh and I take our kids hiking and camping, they have challenging chores and many responsibilities, (we are remodeling our basement together), they have many opportunities to work with others on important projects (they train puppies to become service dogs), our 15 yo has been apprenticing at a local garage, and we take 'technology' breaks throughout the year. I don't find it all that helpful to parcel that aspect of parenting out for one week a year.

I am also cynical about the supposedly life-alerting decisions that kids make at camp. By the end of the week, they are exhausted and emotional, and would agree to just about anything. In over 30 years, I have yet to see a 'camp decision' stick.

Blogging at Susan Raber Online

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Since 6/4/09 13:10:12
1726 posts
Susan, What you are

Susan,

What you are describing is yet another problem with parachurch organizations that have moved form coming along side the church as it ministers to taking over church ministry. Our church does a summer camp - completely in-house. We staff it and fund it by the church, primarily for the church. If the church would just get back to doing her job, ministering to people, instead of subletting space and abandoning responsibility to outsiders, I think we could greatly diminish the fears you speak of - not to mention the cost. A week of camp in the high timbers is going to cost our kids the outrageous price of $85 this year, which is more than ever before.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture
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Since 5/6/09 20:48:52
4366 posts
Agreed

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Susan,

What you are describing is yet another problem with parachurch organizations that have moved form coming along side the church as it ministers to taking over church ministry. Our church does a summer camp - completely in-house. We staff it and fund it by the church, primarily for the church. If the church would just get back to doing her job, ministering to people, instead of subletting space and abandoning responsibility to outsiders, I think we could greatly diminish the fears you speak of - not to mention the cost. A week of camp in the high timbers is going to cost our kids the outrageous price of $85 this year, which is more than ever before.


True- at least with a church controlled camp, the folks know each other and can minister better to the kids.

On the other hand, some of the worst of what I've experienced was at a church controlled, in-house camp. However, the church itself is severely dysfunctional. Camp was just one more outlet for the regular abuses of power that took place in the church itself. It wasn't 'camp' that was at fault, so to speak.

I weary of the idea that camp is so very special. I think daily life is what is meaningful in the long run. Getting away is a great idea, focusing on the Lord, doing new things... but there is a strange emphasis that kids make life-altering decisions for the Lord at camp, and I just don't believe that is as true as it is presented.

Blogging at Susan Raber Online

Dick Dayton's picture
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Since 3/24/10 10:03:38
160 posts
Camp and Church Ministry

At the camp where we participate, the counselors are drawn from our churches, so there is immediate local church contact. The board of the camp is made up of people from our fellowship of churches, so people "on the ground" have input into what is happening.
The counselors attend a training retreat where they are reinforced with safety and security principles, and given the theme for the week, along with suggested evening devotion themes, so that the whole camp is spiritually focussed.
We have a heavy emphasis upon biblical input into our camper's lives, along with some time for play and interaction. For our two children, it was a good experience, and they formed some good friendships through these contacts.

Dick Dayton

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Since 6/4/09 13:10:12
1726 posts
Dick, are you GARB?

Dick, are you GARB?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Since 6/14/11 21:09:35
380 posts
Susan R wrote: ...I am also

Susan R wrote:
...I am also cynical about the supposedly life-alerting decisions that kids make at camp. By the end of the week, they are exhausted and emotional, and would agree to just about anything. In over 30 years, I have yet to see a 'camp decision' stick.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, so much heat and so little light. But I'll just stick with the statement quoted.

Scripture makes it clear that there are basically 4 reactions to the Word: "Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places...And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground...(Matt. 13:4 FF)." We know from Scripture what the birds, thorns, and rocks represent.

I think that it was Wil Rice of the infamous Bill Rice Ranch that succinctly stated "the purpose for camp is to provide an atmosphere where truth can be heard," or something similar. In other words, addressing those enemies of the Word that can be addressed. Camp basically provides an opportunity for the Word with less birds and less thorns. Nothing more, nothing less.

Seems like your observation of 30 years is not a camp problem, but a stone problem, a bird problem, a thorn problem, or, Heaven forbid, you have a problem with the Word itself.

Young people responding to the conviction of the Word is quite real, whether at camp or elsewhere. It is completely irrelevant whether or not you think it has stuck.

Lee

Susan R's picture
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Since 5/6/09 20:48:52
4366 posts
The point

Lee wrote:
Susan R wrote:
...I am also cynical about the supposedly life-alerting decisions that kids make at camp. By the end of the week, they are exhausted and emotional, and would agree to just about anything. In over 30 years, I have yet to see a 'camp decision' stick.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, so much heat and so little light. But I'll just stick with the statement quoted.

Scripture makes it clear that there are basically 4 reactions to the Word: "Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places...And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground...(Matt. 13:4 FF)." We know from Scripture what the birds, thorns, and rocks represent.

I think that it was Wil Rice of the infamous Bill Rice Ranch that succinctly stated "the purpose for camp is to provide an atmosphere where truth can be heard," or something similar. In other words, addressing those enemies of the Word that can be addressed. Camp basically provides an opportunity for the Word with less birds and less thorns. Nothing more, nothing less.

Seems like your observation of 30 years is not a camp problem, but a stone problem, a bird problem, a thorn problem, or, Heaven forbid, you have a problem with the Word itself.

Young people responding to the conviction of the Word is quite real, whether at camp or elsewhere. It is completely irrelevant whether or not you think it has stuck.


I think you are missing my basic point. It isn't that kids can't make life-changing decisions at camp, but that there is an unhealthy emphasis on this one week of the year, without the appropriate emphasis on the day-to-day, and a home for the kids to go back to that will provide fertile ground for what has been sown.

Why are there so many birds and thorns and stones in the lives of our children? What if mom and dad are the birds and the thorns and the stones? Are churches not addressing the parental issues that are at the heart of this? The articles in the OP talked about allowing kids to get dirty and do things that are hard. Are you kidding me? Kids don't get dirty and sweaty at home? They don't do anything challenging in their daily lives? Do you think one week of hiking is going to create a work ethic that will last after the kid goes back home to his tv, couch, iPod, and Xbox? What will make a difference, IMO, is if his home life reinforces and supports what he's learned at camp.

IOW, are we truly trusting the Word and the Spirit to move hearts, or the 'experience' of camp?

In 30 years, I'll grant that I have seen some decently run camps. But I've also seen more than enough serious immorality amongst campers and counselors, I've experienced an attempted assault by another counselor, I've seen kids bullied and abused, and I've had to corral a bunch of kids because the counselors decided that having fun at camp was also their right and privilege, so they left their cabins unsupervised. This is about more than sending kids to camp, but if parents feel that camp is such a great experience, parents have got some serious homework to do about where to send them that will not only keep them physically safe, but morally and spiritually safe.

I don't have a problem with the Word. Summer camp is not a Scriptural mandate... unless you count Jesus' time in the wilderness as 'camp'...

Blogging at Susan Raber Online

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Since 6/14/11 21:09:35
380 posts
Susan R wrote: I think you

Susan R wrote:
I think you are missing my basic point. It isn't that kids can't make life-changing decisions at camp, but that there is an unhealthy emphasis on this one week of the year, without the appropriate emphasis on the day-to-day, and a home for the kids to go back to that will provide fertile ground for what has been sown.

Two requirements for substantive change in practically any individual's life: a decision followed by discipline. Discipline, according to Scripture, is clearly the job of the church, the home, and the spirit-controlled individual (II Peter 1). But just as a decision not followed by discipline will likely die, discipline not preceded by a decision is useless. Camp is a decision-making place and opportunity. It is not a camp issue if churches, families, or individuals renege on their obligation of discipline. The decision is no less real.

Susan R wrote:
Why are there so many birds and thorns and stones in the lives of our children? What if mom and dad are the birds and the thorns and the stones? Are churches not addressing the parental issues that are at the heart of this? The articles in the OP talked about allowing kids to get dirty and do things that are hard. Are you kidding me? Kids don't get dirty and sweaty at home? They don't do anything challenging in their daily lives? Do you think one week of hiking is going to create a work ethic that will last after the kid goes back home to his tv, couch, iPod, and Xbox? What will make a difference, IMO, is if his home life reinforces and supports what he's learned at camp.

You've asked several unrelated questions here.

Why so many birds, etc.? Because Satan is real and hates your kids.

What if mom and dad are the thorns? A question moot to the discussion. Ezek. 18 makes it clear that the kid is still accountable for him or her self, as the parent is for him or her self.

Are churches not addressing..........? Again, not a camp question. But you may have some pretty good issues with some churches.

Do you think that one week....is going to create...[something ]...that will last after the kid goes back home...? If truth is heard to the point of conviction so that the kid responds with a decision for that truth (whatever the specific application) then it has the potential to last for a long time. Do I expect a decision to create maturity in any given matter in one week? Of course not, and neither does Scripture. That is why it references the Christian walk as growing.

Susan R wrote:
IOW, are we truly trusting the Word and the Spirit to move hearts, or the 'experience' of camp?

Only the Word and the Spirit can move hearts. The camp experience is merely a tool for presenting the Word and providing an atmosphere where that truth can be easily heard.

Susan R wrote:
In 30 years, I'll grant that I have seen some decently run camps. But I've also seen more than enough serious immorality amongst campers and counselors, I've experienced an attempted assault by another counselor, I've seen kids bullied and abused, and I've had to corral a bunch of kids because the counselors decided that having fun at camp was also their right and privilege, so they left their cabins unsupervised. This is about more than sending kids to camp, but if parents feel that camp is such a great experience, parents have got some serious homework to do about where to send them that will not only keep them physically safe, but morally and spiritually safe.

I don't have a problem with the Word. Summer camp is not a Scriptural mandate... unless you count Jesus' time in the wilderness as 'camp'...


I believe what you're looking for is the Millennium. Otherwise, as long as people are involved there will be issues. But that is true for church, school, homes, playgrounds, friends houses, and every other place not camp. There ain't a lot of perfection running around out here.

You are right, Scripture does not demand a camp experience for every child. Every child does not respond well to a camp environment. However, Scripture proves that God utilizes many tools to lead, even drive individuals to "hear" His Word. In recent years and in primarily western cultures camp has proved itself a useful tool that God has chosen to use according to His Word in the lives of many, many young people and adults alike.

I have little doubt that you may fall into the category of not responding well to a camp environment. That is a God thing as far as I'm concerned. However, the generalizations you've made about camping in general hold precious little water either Scripturally or experientially.

Lee

Susan R's picture
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Since 5/6/09 20:48:52
4366 posts
@Lee

We are talking past each other. It happens. C'est la vie.

Quote:
I have little doubt that you may fall into the category of not responding well to a camp environment. That is a God thing as far as I'm concerned. However, the generalizations you've made about camping in general hold precious little water either Scripturally or experientially.

I'm not even sure what that part of your comment is supposed to mean. 'Camp environment' is a hugely broad term. My dh and I love camping, my kids love camping- but we've given up on camp as a tool to assist in our children's growth.

My concern is mostly for parents who are encouraged to send their kids to camp for some kind of miraculous spiritual transformation, when there are many camps that are not physically, morally, or spiritually safe. Camp may be a tool, but camp is not an answer. Daily submission to the will of God, study, prayer, and discipleship is an answer.

Blogging at Susan Raber Online

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Since 6/14/11 21:09:35
380 posts
Susan R wrote: I'm not even

Susan R wrote:

I'm not even sure what that part of your comment is supposed to mean. 'Camp environment' is a hugely broad term. My dh and I love camping, my kids love camping- but we've given up on camp as a tool to assist in our children's growth.

This seems like a bit of a word game to me. With the OP being what it is, and the discussion being what it has been, do you really think I may be referencing setting the pup tent up on the lower forty and spending a couple of back to nature days with the kiddies? Obviously the reference is to organized youth camps such as Wilds, Chetek, Peniel, BRR, or any of a host of others.

Susan R wrote:
My concern is mostly for parents who are encouraged to send their kids to camp for some kind of miraculous spiritual transformation, when there are many camps that are not physically, morally, or spiritually safe. Camp may be a tool, but camp is not an answer. Daily submission to the will of God, study, prayer, and discipleship is an answer.

Again, it sounds like your beef is with something or someone other than camp. I happen to know a lot of camp people, and I can't think of one who would not describe their goal for any given individual as other than "recognize and then take the next spiritual step." There isn't some "miraculous spiritual transformation" involved there in any way shape or form, though sometimes the "next spiritual step" may be more involved and visible than others.

I respect your decision not to involve your children in camp. However, I take umbrage with your notion that Christian camping is some sort of colossal spiritual hoax foisted upon unsuspecting churches and families.

Lee

Susan R's picture
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Since 5/6/09 20:48:52
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Huh?

Quote:
do you really think I may be referencing setting the pup tent up on the lower forty and spending a couple of back to nature days with the kiddies?

Is that how we camp out? I think you need to replace your crystal ball- it ain't workin'.

Bro. Lee- you are speaking of your experiences, and I am speaking of mine. And that's ok- both are valid. But "Christian camping" is, as I said, a hugely broad term. Not all camps are alike. Many parents send their kids to smaller, lesser known camps. I could name dozens you've never heard of, and I bet you could do the same.

I never said that camp was a colossal spiritual hoax, but that I perceive an unhealthy emphasis on this one week as providing a transformational spiritual experience for children. I have heard pastors and YPs encourage parents to send their kids to camp with literal promises of how "it will change their life", and "you won't recognize your own child" and "they'll never be the same again"... This is presenting camp as a magic bullet, and while a child may change as a result of camp, 1) it might not be a good change 2) there are no guarantees for parents who are looking for one.

Please- Try to deal with the phraseology I've actually used. A 'concern' is not a 'beef'. An 'unhealthy emphasis' is not a 'colossal spiritual hoax'. And if you have power to speak for every Christian camp in America, you should get an 800 number and make some ready cash.

Blogging at Susan Raber Online