Church Camp

IStock_000007104790Medium Like most kids who have grown up in the Christian faith I spent at least a week of each summer at church camp. When I was a kid, it was KINGS KAMP at Camp Tanda. Then it was SoCal Teen camp up near Santa Barbara (back in those days). When I went to college, it was the Pepperdine Campus Ministry Retreats at Camp St. Nicholas in Frazier Park in the fall and the Oaks Christian Conference Center in Lake Hughes, CA.

Most of those camps still operate at the same time in the same place today. They continue to be a place of memory-making for young people. I have extremely fond memories of camp life at each stage. While I would like to appear more mature than I was, honesty must prevail.

For me, as a kid, the priority system was like this:

1. Have fun.
2. Have fun.
3. Have fun.

When I became a teen-ager, the priority system went like this:

1. Meet girls.
2. Have fun.
3. Look cool.
4. Grow spiritually

When I was in college, it went like this:

1. Meet girls.
2. Grow spiritually.
3. Meet more girls.

Tonight, I'm heading up to one of NCCC's camps for elementary and middle school kids. It will be interesting to see if the priority systems are much different. I'm coming up at the end of the week. My hope is that, as it was for me–the priority systems change over the course of the week.

I became increasingly focused on the spiritual as the week went on. It was still a system that included fun and (at the appropriate age) meeting a Christian of the opposite sex. However, spiritual growth tends to move up over the course of the camp week. That's a good thing. Perhaps that's Church Camp's biggest use besides fun…moving Christ up the priority ladder for young people.

A few questions:

Was your priority system different than mine at those ages?

What are some of your best memories of camp?

What are the primary benefits of church camps today?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Church Camp

  1. Many great memories at Camp Tanda also (probably several years before you, though!) My priorities were very much the same, except change meeting girls to meeting boys.
    My fondest and strongest memory is of my bible class teacher when I was 12. She helped me envision Christ on the cross and I heard for the first time (or listened for the first time) of His love for me and the purpose of his death and resurrection.

  2. I think my priorities were exactly the same as yours.
    It was interesting traveling around with Won by One and seeing how different camps operated – kind of shattered the whole “build up to friday night cry and confession time.” Real quick funny story . . .
    We were in Colorado and had a good concert going on. Out of nowhere, while Heath is praying, he decides to ask everyone who is struggling with something to raise their hand “everyone’s eyes are closed, no one is watching” and then a few seconds later, he proceeds to tell everyone to open their eyes and find someone with their hand raised to go and pray for! All madness ensued. Kids are crying and confessing and the leaders of the camp are all looking around frantically . . . this isn’t supposed to happen until friday night and its only wednesday! So at like 8:30, they told everyone to go back to their cabins for the night.
    But for real, I love church camp.
    Volleyball, lots of singing, good talks, ice cream cone on a hot TN summer day.