For those that have attended a camp at Slumber Falls or seen camps in action, realize that the creativity, planning, and implementation of activities to help shape an intentional Christian community takes time and forethought. One of the staff training modules includes transforming groups of campers, counselors, and staff from a group into a community with shared values and deep concern for one another.
I am constantly amazed at how a group of individuals starts off the week with hopes, fears, desires, anxieties, and a whole slew of other of emotions yet by the end of just one week they function as a family and cannot imagine life without each other. Some of my friends that champion the importance and critical benefits of outdoor ministries and summer camp call this part of the magic of summer camp, but I wonder if there’s something more. What shapes our campers so quickly and why do they have so many mountaintop experiences? Is this phenomenon universal in all summer camps or only some? Many of the experiences mirror activities in local churches, but I seldom hear stories of people flocking to churches and crying at the thought of leaving.
I know we don’t always play fair at summer camp because we do take away cell phones, encourage them into family groups to discuss themes, and campers really don’t have the option to call the outside world, connect to social media or mindless entertainment sites, or go home when it gets tough or homesickness sets in. Yet, once they get through some of those obstacles and develop coping mechanisms and learn how to communicate face-to-face with another person, they are thrilled to have been part of something great and look forward to doing this again in the future.
I also wonder if this model of taking groups that have loose interests and moving them into a tight-knit community is something that churches can learn.
Can we modify the elements that help people connect and find new life as a result of being part of our churches, non-profit organizations, and other entities? After campers experience a powerful week of camp, do they have similar experiences that entice them to be part of a local church? If we did identify, which we can, would churches value it enough to make changes? If not, what would it take to encourage churches to want to broaden their ministries to help a wider range of individuals feel they have found a spiritual home and family.
As I write this on a Friday of two of the largest camps here this summer, I see love all around me; I see tears of people realizing that this week is nearly over and the new friends and community will so transition tomorrow, and I hear stories of how shy and homesick campers overcame their fear and anxiety from the first few days to have one of the best weeks in their lives. Camp is a place for campers to grow, take controlled risks, and discover that they are amazing and have the potential to make a difference in the world. We encourage them to connect to churches and spiritual communities to continue their journey, and I am hoping that we have built a bridge to a vision of a larger church and body of Christ.
If you know of children or youth that could benefit from camp or those that Slumber Falls would be a powerful experience in their lives, please encourage them to come to camp. If not this summer, next summer. I love giving tours to families and chatting with potential campers to help them envision a week of camp and help reduce any anxiety that they might have. We also have opportunities for service weekends and retreats to introduce potential campers and counselors to Slumber Falls Camp. Slumber Falls is a gem to Texas and an incredible ministry of transformation and growth, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I hope to see you soon!