After Church Camp Stops
Church camp can be super awesome. You are forced outside your comfort zone, away from all the noise of your day to day life. You don’t have the distractions of video games, Netflix, social media and the like. Depending on your church you might even have limited access to your phone which trust me, as an adult is something that is hard to give up at times. It gives you a chance to make friends and meet people that may be going through the same things you are. You get to hang out with a new crew, while you build stronger relationships with your current youth group. As someone who went to camp as a participant and as a leader you get a chance to feel like you belong to something bigger. You have the ability to do something greater that you don’t think you can do in your normal day to day life.
The not so super awesome part of camp is the “camp high”. In itself it’s a good thing, a rekindling of a fire burning hard for God; but, if not handled properly after returning from church camp, it can be a very dangerous thing. In a nutshell, as you spend day after day at camp in the Word, and you are surrounded, for the most part, by people that believe the same things you believe; you are encouraged to push yourself in your faith and you sing songs that emotionally connect you to God. If you are lucky enough, as I was this past year, you get an extra two hours of worship due to storms keeping everyone indoors for safety. It was a blessing, it was an awesome experience, and it was an awesome feeling.
Here is where I think we have a problem — that “camp high” is more of a fleeting feeling, or emotion, than anything else. Feelings and emotions can be misleading for an adult let alone a youth that is still navigating a world of new feelings and emotions. When camp is over, when you get home and get caught up on sleep, reality sets in. No longer are you surrounded by like-minded people 24/7. No longer are you restricted to computers, phones and other forms of technology, and sadly, no longer are you living in His word (though I argue you should be, but that’s for a later time). Life isn’t like camp. Quickly, life will come at you and the noise that you left for a week comes flooding back in. Life can and will become hard really fast and you will fall and feel like you’ve let God down. You might feel you’ve failed Him and you are now lost after such an awesome mountaintop, camp high, experience. Peter had a very similar camp high, mountaintop experience:
28 About eight days after this conversation, he took along Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, two men were talking with him — Moses and Elijah. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.
32 Peter and those with him were in a deep sleep and when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men who were standing with him. 33 As the two men were departing from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it’s good for us to be here. Let us set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he was saying.
34 While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him!”
Luke 9:28–35 CSB
Peter got a camp high and he wanted to stay there. He wanted to stay where he was close to Jesus and could hear God clearly (much of what I hear many youths say about their time at camp). Peter even offered to set up tents and make it a campout. We want to live where the pressures that make being a Christian hard are minimal, but unfortunately, that isn’t the real world. That isn’t the broken world that we are called to be in. Jesus didn’t take up Peter’s offer for a campout, He knew that there was work to do and they went back down the mountain and continued the redemptive work of His Father.
I do see camp as a both a good and bad thing. Kudos to those that work camp, that put in hard work over the summer to do His work. Every week they get a new group in and show love and support and energy, to bring glory to One. However, I think the realization I have come to is, we are called to teach a genuine walk with God. The camp moments, and camp high are great but they aren’t realistic. The world isn’t perfect like camp. It’s not a neat little box that packs up God nicely. We should be living in this imperfect world intentionally bringing the Gospel relationally to people that need it, while we continue to strengthen our personal relationship with God, through study, fellowship, mentors and friends that are believers. That task falls on parents, youth pastors, leaders and honestly everyone in the church family. We are all called to minister in different ways (it’s biblical… Ephesians 4:11–13) and ultimately, it is our fault if we don’t. If we aren’t handling His business and keeping the fire burning in the youth for 51 weeks of the year, how do we expect 1 week to make a true difference in their lives.