As I mentioned in a recent post, I want to begin thinking out loud about a different approach to church camp, one that is less program and activity-driven. But before we begin to consider what it could mean to "rethink" church camp, it might be helpful to consider why there is even a need to look for a new direction. Why fix what isn't broken? Isn't camp supposed to be about games, crafts, sports, campfires, and crazy team activities? Consider the church camp experience shared by the writer of the Messy Christian blog. Near as I can tell, she is talking about a church camp for adults, but everything she shares could equally apply to church camp for youth:
Frankly, I don’t really enjoy church camps . . . . I find the manufactured togetherness exhausting at best, and the effort of smiling and being cheerful all the time is also taxing. Not that I don’t have fun during church camp, but at the back of my mind is always this question, “Why
am I doing this?” And there’s always this feeling that building real relationships is still out of my reach despite all the fun we’re having….
hmm.I find church camps to be pressure cookers. I hate participating in the games the most. I’m really anti-social during church camps and go all out to avoid all team sports games and people will probably think I’m some kind of sour puss (which I probably am). What I long for is a church camp that is not so frantic with the need TO DO SOMETHING. I also feel such a pressure to conform at a time when I don’t want to conform so badly. (If you don’t play in the games, people will think you’re not part of the team, when all you want to do is just watch and relax a little.)So yeah, people who think too much probably won’t have a swell time at church camps. The best church camp I had was with DUMC, where I basically did some reading at the beach, some mingling with a couple of
friends, and listening to a talk or two and lots and lots of just sitting around staring at the sea. I refused to participate in any of the games, and frankly, if anyone forced me, I would’ve thrown something at them. And it was a great, healing time!
I think the explanation is simple. Because I lead such a hectic life as a journalist, rushing from deadline to deadline, appointment to appointment, participate in all kinds of press conferences, watch exciting shows, meet all kinds of people etc, when you’re on a holiday, you want to do the opposite. You want to be silent, and slow down. You want to be selfish.You I don’t want to be part of any thing. You don’t want to get excited. You want to do nothing, be with God alone without the distraction …I wish there was a church camp like that. Where I can just retreat somewhere beautiful with some friends and think and write about God.
Do these thoughts resonate with you and the experience you have had at camp? Can you imagine youth at your camps who might feel just this way? I think these sentiments do a great job of laying out the challenges. Next, we'll start considering the options that might offer a different way of doing camp.