“Kids go where there is excitement, but they stay where there is love.” -Zig Ziglar
The above quote tells us so much about why kids come back to summer camp year after year. Think about the excitement of one week of camp for a child. Even before they arrive, there is so much anticipation. They are packing so many things…a flashlight, a sleeping bag, a water bottle, a rain coat. Each thing that is placed in the bag represents something extraordinary. They are asking as they pack, “Will we sleep under the stars for a night this year? What will my group be like? Who will my counselor be? Will there be a night hike? Will we still go swimming if it rains?” Questions and excitement and anxiety build anticipation as the time for camp draws near.
As they drive down the road on the first day, the feelings get bigger. Are we there yet? Not yet. Almost. Here we are. The first day of camp is intentionally crazy and filled with energy. There’s lots of games and running. Laughter rings out across the meadow. Color powder fills the air as kids are welcomed into their new community for the week. It’s excitement at a new level. It reminds them of all that they want to do, all that they hope for, and the fun they want to have.
Camp is filled with adventure and activity all week long. Archery and kayaking and caving and zip lines and bubble soccer and painting and swimming and campfires. It’s exciting, for sure. But at the end of the week, when they are crying and saying good-bye with their friends, it isn’t because they are sad to leave the adventure behind. It’s because this was a place of love.
It’s the little moments, the seemingly unimportant and insignificant moments, that really capture kids’ hearts at summer camp. It’s the shared conversation around the dinner table. It’s the silly stories while they’re hiking. It’s the honest revelations in Bible study and the prayers whispered under the stars. This is a place where they come seeking fun, but they find so much more. They find acceptance, joy, and love in a community of people who welcome them just as they are. They don’t have to be cool, popular, gorgeous, smart, athletic, or the best. They just have to be. At camp, there is a culture of authenticity that encourages kids to break free of the filters and expectations of the world. Instead, they are encouraged to be exactly who God made them to be. And in that process, they find that they are loved just the same.
It is the most important thing we can offer a child at summer camp. The chance to be known. To be heard. To be loved. They come for the excitement. They stay because they are loved. And when they leave, it is our hope that they take that love to a world that needs it. Never forget, camp community, that we love you!