By Rev. David Berkey, Executive Director, Michigan Area United Methodist Camping
If you have a child or grandchild, kids in your church or neighborhood, people you know of school-age, even youth and young adults looking for a summer job – NOW is the time to think about summer camp! Why is summer camp so important, especially now?
What children and youth need most right now is just what camp provides, according to a a recent three-year study by Dr. Denise Pope of Stanford University and Challenge Success. Very important things like safety, relationships, belonging, teamwork, fun, perseverance, problem-solving, responsibility, independence and time outdoors unplugged from technology are the very same outcomes we see at summer camp. Check out the “Challenge Success – Research on the Benefits of Camp” video
And I’d go one step further. Many of our young people are experiencing a spiritual crisis right now – uncertainty about where to find God, the purpose of their lives or even hope in the future. The spiritual benefits of summer camp for young people are immeasurable and last a lifetime! I have seen the spiritual gifts of summer camp in three powerful ways:
- There is a real connection with God’s Creation – the trees, birds, lakes, pathways, animals, stars, flowers, wind, grass, sun, and sand. I came to know that the God of my church Bible lessons was real when I was 11 years old one day at summer camp swimming on my back in a lake looking up at the clouds and trees surrounding me and lifting me up. Where have you come to know God as real in Creation? It happens at camp!
- There is a genuine feeling that one is accepted for who they really are – radical hospitality and unconditional love. A camper last year was told by another camper that she seemed “weird.” Yet another camper came up to them and said, “that’s not a problem because we’re all weird!” In an atmosphere of total acceptance campers can explore, discover, and come to love their true selves as God loves them. Where do you experience total acceptance for who you really are? It happens at camp!
- There is a genuine sense of belonging to a group — an extended family that shares challenges and joys bonding them together forever. At our Winter Blast last month, the campers in small groups were asked to sled down the hill not alone but together, holding on to one another in some way. It was hilarious to watch, yet a powerful message that we are in this together and we all belong. Where do you experience being a part of a beloved community? It happens at camp!
Now is the time to plan to be at summer camp. How can you make sure someone you know or love have that powerful experience? Now is the time to sign up! Know with assurance that summer is coming and it is going to be great!
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Hurry — early bird savings end April 30!