Christian youth camp is an unparalleled spiritual event for young people. Thousands travel to camps across the world every summer to spend time with other, like-minded youth while growing their faith. A Biblically sound camp is far superior to band camps, football camps, or scout camps. I’ve been involved in camps or retreats for almost 50 years as a youth and now as an adult. They simply cannot be beaten. Every year at the camp I attend, dozens respond, asking for prayers and desiring baptism.
Despite the impact of Christian camping, there are some things that camp cannot do.
Camp Cannot Stop Temptation.
Temptation is the bane of every disciple’s existence. From Adam and Eve until today, temptation attacks every believer. Even our Lord himself was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1-13). If Jesus can be tempted, surely we are vulnerable too. Nevertheless, we know that temptation is not the same as sin. Jesus was tempted but without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Paul reminds us that we are not forced to sin (1 Corinthians 10:12, 13). Sin is a choice that arises from temptation. James says it this way: our desires produce temptation, leading to sin and then sin leading to death (James 1:14, 15). We can avoid some temptations but not all of them. Without a doubt, our campers are tempted once home. Camp strives to encourage and give ways to avoid sin, but it takes continued encouragement from the family and the church.
Camp Cannot Make a Christian
During my days at Freed-Hardeman, I served on the dean’s disciplinary committee. I observed many students sent to a Christian college to “be fixed” by the school. Likewise, troubled young people are sometimes sent to camp for spiritual repair. Camp cannot, in a week, undo 51 other weeks of spiritual neglect by parents and local churches. Hear me, parents! Children need 24/7/365 spiritual nourishment. Christian camps and youth ministers can never substitute for godly parents. God’s best method of turning children into faithful adults is the faithful example of parents. Camp is a small, albeit important part, of their growth.
Camp Cannot Make a Local Community
There is something special about youth camp. It’s either hot or rainy, dusty or muddy. Showers seem to be optional for some. To get to camp, you travel to the end of the earth, past the last cell tower, jump off the edge and then turn right. The singing is heavenly, and the Bible study excellent. For a week, we are all part of a unique, sequestered community. But we all need more. The local congregation must be a community of believers involved in one another’s lives. Youth must never feel like they are fringe elements. They are workers for the Lord, just like the rest of us. Help them to grow into greater roles in the church. We will answer how we aid the young in their maturing lives.
I am a believer in Christian camping, but it cannot do everything a young person needs. Parents are essential to the growth of their children, as are other local church members. This generation faces a level of worldly confusion and chaos with which we did not have to deal. Despite their vulnerabilities, which are many, our young people are among the finest I have ever had the privilege to work with. They are struggling to stay afloat; they need our help.