This week my city is seeing, or rather feeling, below zero temperatures. While the snow falls outside my window, and the wind gusts could cause your nostrils to freeze together, I’m dreaming about one thing-- SUMMER CAMP!
Sure, my toes are begging for flip-flop weather and my skin has turned a ghostly shade of pale and could use some Vitamin D, but that’s not why I love summer camp. There’s so many things to love about summer camps, but I’ve trimmed it down to 4 reasons why you should be sending your teens to camp and why you should go, too.
#1 Bedtime Giggles, Snacks & Story Time
Some of my favorite camp memories happen within the 4-walls of the cabin. After a long day of games, swimming, canoeing, services and miles and miles of walking, there’s nothing like some downtime while lounging on 3 inch thick foam mattresses. This is where snacks are brought out and shared. As the counselor, I’ve often debated whether it really is wise to let the campers get all sugared up before bedtime. Hours later or, more specifically, the next morning when my eyes are blood-shot from lack of sleep I really question my judgement.
BUT those hours in the cabin together are precious. They include not only the epic stories from the day’s events, but carry over to life outside of camp. Campers share what it’s like back home, at school and at church. Many times it includes personal struggles they are dealing with-- from the death of a sibling, to school year bullying to sexual purity. I’ve heard a wide gamut of things that I am able to speak into during those moments. Apparently, sugar and tiredness removes walls and filters.
#2 The Cup Game & Other Meal Time Bonding
If you’ve never heard of the cup game, then it’s obvious that you’ve never been to camp and that needs to change. Mind you, the cup game isn’t for everyone. Some people, like me, do not have the rhythm or coordination needed for this game. That’s ok, though, because there’s always a crowd of people surrounding the table where it is being played. Those people are like me.
Meals are also the perfect opportunity for a manners lessons. The good old “Elbows, elbows on the table! This is not a horse’s stable! But a first class dining table! Round the room you must go!” song is sung at nearly every meal. When the person is caught in the act (after a few moments of self loathing for making such an error) they have to walk around the dining room as everyone continues to sing.
These are memory makers. They are the things that when you get home from camp, you’ll try to talk to your friends or family about, and they’ll look at you side-ways. They won’t understand your fascination with plastic cups, or that song or why it’s such a bad thing to have elbows on the table when you eat.
#3 No Guts. No Glory. Competition Sports.
I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m a bit too competitive for my own good. Any girl that has even been in my cabin will tell you the same thing. I’m the crazy counselor waving my arms like a fool and cheering as if these are Olympic qualifying events.
Competition cultivates relationship. You’ve got to learn to work together to crush….er...beat the opponents. I don’t care if it’s digging fish out of kiddie pools full of noodles (ya, I’ve done that) or rowing a canoe with your arms (that too), you better figure out pretty quickly how to work together.
I’ll never forget the one summer where we were competing in a mock version of a Tough Mudder. It had just about killed me, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish the course. My girls surrounded me and not only helped me cross that finish line, but they showed me what true sportsmanship was all about.
#4 Worship, Sermons & Experiencing Jesus
The camp I grew up at, and still continue to serve at, holds it’s chapel services under a large tent. The worship music floods out the sides and into the open skies and the entire atmosphere is heavenly. I mean that literally. It’s as if heaven really is touching earth in those moments. I’ll often sneak a look around the tent just so I can try to capture the faces of teens as they shine the glory of God.
It’s breath taking.
The worship always seems better than the typical Sunday morning set, or that’s what I thought as a kid. “Why can’t worship be like this at home?” I’d whine. It most likely was, but there was something about camp that made it seem extra spectacular for some reason. Maybe it had something to do with the sermon that accompanied it, although I doubt it. Maybe it had something to do with the fresh summer air, although I doubt it. Maybe it just had something to do with the fact that when you’re at camp you expect God to move.
Honestly, I don’t remember 90% of the sermons I’ve heard at camp, but there are some things I will never forget. I’ll never forget the stories that were exchanged in a cabin room lit only by Christmas lights. I’ll never forget the laughs around the dinner table or while walking to to the next event. Mostly, I’ll never forget the relationships and the love and how all those things showed me Jesus in a real and tangible way. Yes, even as an adult.
So, if you’re a teen-- don’t miss out on the most epic week of your summer. Bring your friends along and let them be a part of the fun. And adults-- don’t miss out of the most epic week of your LIFE. Commit to serving for a week and be that story-telling, snack sharing, hug giving, competitive counselor cheering your teens on like a maniac.You won’t regret it and don’t worry, you’ll eventually catch up on sleep.