Summer Camp is Weird
Summer camp is weird. When we say that, we mean weird in a totally good way. If you’ve ever been to camp, then you probably understand what we mean before we even explain it.
It’s weird because the completely normal and acceptable thing to do when you’re clearing the table and cleaning up after a meal is to sing a goofy song with silly actions that has no point and just leaves everyone smiling as they leave the dining hall.
It’s weird because getting as dirty as possible is the goal of several activities.
It’s weird because you get to know someone better in one day than friends you’ve had for years.
It’s weird because you do hard, challenging things, but someone is always there cheering you on.
That’s what we mean when we say summer camp is weird.
Summer camp is like a world that doesn’t exist beyond the camp gates. It’s a fantasy land that you’ve heard about in books and dreams but didn’t think possible in real life. It’s a place filled with fun and adventure, but somehow also learning and growth. There are certain things that summer camp offers that you can’t find anywhere else. Summer camp is weird like that.
First, summer camp breaks down barriers. The kids who come to camp come from all different kinds of backgrounds and places. Some come from cities, others from rural towns or farms. Some kids attend large megachurches and some don’t go to church at all. They are jocks and academics, outsiders, class clowns, and “popular” kids. They represent different nationalities, political ideals, households, family types, and ways of thinking. In everyday life, these differences might drive them apart. However, in the weird world that is summer camp, these kids become best friends. They sit around the campfire and share stories of life, united around their belief in God and in sharing the love of Jesus. They laugh with each other, cheer each other on when they are struggling, and invent ways to connect after camp is over. They don’t see what divides them. Instead, they unite around common experiences, exciting memories, and conversations held beneath starry skies. Summer camp is weird like that.
Second, summer camp is isolated. Today, we are so used to being connected and plugged in all the time. Unsure how to get somewhere? Just type it into your car’s GPS! Need to know when your child’s sports practice will end? Just send them a text. When we have a question, we ask Google. When we need a recipe, we turn to Pinterest. Our kids don’t know what it’s like to be part of a world that isn’t constantly connected, updating, and available. Screens and technology are a normal and good part of life, but they steal a little from us at the same time. We have fewer opportunities to retreat, to be on our own, to make our own fun and create our own ideas. We don’t know how to sit still. We’ve lost the concept of retreat and Sabbath and rest. Our kids can’t even comprehend these ideas. However, at summer camp, you do all of these things. You have face to face conversations. Your “news” comes from the person giving announcements at the front of the dining hall. Rest time is built into your day. You watch the sun rise and the sun set, lay with your friends in the meadow and point out the star constellations, float lazily down the river with no concept of time, create sculptures from clay, pretend to be a mud monster as you stomp through the creek. Each day is filled with activity and learning and creating, and after just a short time, kids don’t miss the screens and technology they left at home. For one week, they are free to be living in the present moment with no distractions to call them in from outside. They discover a whole new world of imaginative play and adventure and skill building and challenge. Summer camp is weird like that.
Third, summer camp encourages positive risks. Kids need a place where they don’t have to worry about someone making fun of them when they mess up. They need a place where they don’t have to look or be or do everything perfectly for fear of judgment or ridicule. At camp, when a child misses the bull’s eye in archery, their friends encourage them and give them pointers. They remind them that they are still valuable. They affirm their attempt to try, even if they didn’t quite hit their target this time. At camp, as a group works together in the challenge course, they learn to listen, and someone who might have been afraid to speak offers a suggestion that the group excitedly tries. Suddenly, that person realizes that they are valued by this group, and they aren’t afraid to speak up next time. Each day, campers step a little farther out of their comfort zone, and they realize that they are stronger and smarter than they thought. In this environment designed to allow for positive risks, kids are more likely to challenge themselves than they are at school or at home. Summer camp is weird like that.
We live in a constantly changing, adapting world. Some of the things we see and hear about are encouraging, but many of them aren’t. Summer camp can offer so much to kids that they just can’t find anywhere else. In this weird, fun, and challenging place, kids have fun. They grow. They learn. As our world changes, the experience of summer camp becomes all the more valuable and necessary.
Is your child signed up for summer camp yet? What are you waiting for?