Back to School
It’s that time of year. Everyone has been posting their back to school pictures. Teachers have decorated their classrooms and planned their curriculum. Students have filled their backpacks and are filing back into the hallways, ready to meet new friends, face new challenges, and start new classes.
Where does summer camp fit into the buzz of back to school? As the memories of lazy floats down the river with friends, afternoons in the pool, and watching your rocket soar into the sky become hazy and distant, how do these things fit into the bustle of school buses, gym class, textbooks, and rows of desks? Even though summer camp is over, the things you learned and the ways you grew can be carried with you into this new school year. We hope that every summer camper is walking into this school year a little taller, yes, a little smarter, a little stronger, but also more prepared in some different ways.
First, we hope that you go with confidence in yourself. One of the best parts of summer camp is learning that you are loved and valued just as you are. Summer camp is filled with opportunities for kids to express themselves and learn their own strengths—and this is done, ironically, by giving them a safe place to fail. It’s okay to not be the best archer, the best kayaker, the best soccer player. What’s amazing is that you had the courage to get in the game or pick up the bow. And what’s even more amazing is when kids find their strengths and are celebrated for them. They have the chance to draw an intricate mural during worship, to build a fort out of boxes, to write a poem during a color war competition, or to jump up for the winning catch in Ultimate Frisbee. Each of these spaces gives them a freedom to try different forms of expression—physical, spatial, emotional, and mental—and to tell the world, “This is who I am.”
Second, we hope that you go with arms extended to new friends. Camp is a place where kids come from all over the Midwest and the country. They come from different towns, churches, and denominations. This summer, our staff represented six different countries around the world. We came together as strangers, but we left as friends, as family. At camp, the barriers of diversity are shattered. Life-long friendships are forged in just one week. The power of a smile, a kind word, and a hug are so important. Kids learn that the things that make us different really aren’t so big after all.
Third, we hope that you go with empathy and love. Our curriculum this summer was called “A Love That Never Ends.” We learned about God’s great love for us that was never ending, never failing, and would never give up on us. We also learned that we are called to share that love with those around us no matter who they are or what they’ve done. We hope that you remember to reach out to the hurting and the broken in your schools. We hope that you look for ways to serve. We hope that you seek out ways to be kind. We hope that you are lights in the darkness, shining brightly so that all can see.
School is starting again, and we hope that you don’t forget what you learned at summer camp. Tell everyone about it. Tell them about the goal you scored in kayak polo and the s’mores you made and the obstacles you completed in the challenge course. But don’t forget to tell them about God’s love for them when they feel forgotten, about how much you care about them when they feel down, and to hold their hand when they’re scared.
Have a great school year everyone! We can’t wait to hear all about it.