Camp, where God meets you, stretches and inspires you and transformation happens. Where faith is deepened through the mixture of meeting new people, hanging out with inspiring leaders who have a vibrant faith and living in a community with each other.
Camp is a place where the presence of God can be felt in a real and tangible way through others. Young people often report a camping experience as a turning point for them in the formation of their faith.
Camping, traditionally seen in the LCANZ through Christian Life Weeks (CLW) and weekend camps aimed at primary or high school-aged students, provide a unique experience that can have a lasting impact on the formation of faith. We often refer to camping as a peak experience.
Why are camping (peak) experiences so important in the faith formation process?
- They create mountain top experiences.
- They create memories.
- They create shared experiences.
They also provide:
- Time away from the pressure of day-to-day life to focus on God.
- Opportunities to have times of quiet and silence.
- Seeing God in everyday experiences.
- Exposure to nature, where God is revealed in a significant way.
In terms of faith, I always remember believing. I do remember, at the age of 17 at a Christian camp, having a strong, spiritual experience of God, of transcendence, of, ‘I am not here by accident; I’m not just a biological freak in a cosmic zoo. There’s a purpose to my life, and it was quite an overwhelming experience of awe. I remember physically trembling.' |Tim Costello, CEO, World Vision Australia
Research shows that parents continue to be the single greatest influence on their children’s faith.
It is vital parents take an active part in the faith formation of their children. Allow them to experience all that camping ministry has to offer and share in the journey by talking to them about the experience before and after camp.
Here are some tips to help:
Discuss with your child their expectations of camp. What they might do, see, and hear. Talk about who else is going. Show that you are interested in them and excited about what camp might mean for them and their relationship with Jesus. Ensure they have all that they need to be ‘successful’; go through the camp list with them, especially if they are younger. Pray for them in the lead-up to camp and pray for them in the car on the way there.
The ‘after camp’ experience can be a bewildering time for young people. They are coming down from a high, often very quickly as they are tired and excited all at the same time. They have had an awesome time, appreciated sharing stories, and intense bible studies/sessions, and enjoyed small group time with new friends. They have valued being part of a community where they have found acceptance, been loved by some amazing leaders, and heard some new and exciting worship music.
Coming home can be difficult.
Here are some more ideas to help with the after-camp experience:
- Prepare to be an ‘outsider’ to their experience: You weren’t part of the experience: trying to play catch up on the way to lunch straight after picking them up from camp might be a bit too much to expect.
- Tell them you missed them: Let them know you are glad to see them! Let the first words they hear when they return be words of love, engulfed in a hug.
- Let them have ‘space’: Allow them some transition time. They will be very aware of all of the responsibilities that await them, such as homework etc. Let them enjoy the moment.
- Pray for them: Pray that they will experience God’s love in a significant and perhaps new way. When they return, tell them that you prayed and share the specific things that you prayed about.
- Create space: Young people can be hesitant to divulge too much information. It’s important to remember to give them some space initially, but you might like to say, “It sounds like you had a great time. Whenever you’re ready to talk, I’d love to hear about it.”.
When they are ready, here are some things that might help the conversation:
- What new things did you discover about God and your faith?
- Was anything on camp confusing?
- What commitments did you make on camp, to yourself or God, and can I help?
Your teen may have a desire to pray, read the Bible or support their friends. Perhaps they want you to help them get a new devotion book or Bible, take them to a youth group or help them catch up with friends from camp. Parents can help by planning follow-up events after the peak experience of camping. Organise events where your child can reconnect with their new friends.
Congregations can support camping too and this equipping sheet has some helpful tips on ways you can be involved to encourage your congregation to support your teen and their friends.