For some kids, the pastor is someone they see on Sunday mornings, an icon of faith that feels separate and distant from the rest of their life at school and at home. For others who may not regularly attend church, their idea of a pastor is built from portrayals of the role in television and movies. Our camp chaplains eat and play among campers every day. By the end of the week, they feel like a familiar friend or confidant. Part of what makes the chaplain program at Camp Bear Creek so special is that it helps our campers see that Church is more than just the four walls of a sanctuary. The Church is a body of believers, connected by shared beliefs and values.
By participating in activities, Bible study, cookouts, and worship right alongside our campers, chaplains provide an excellent example of integrating faith and everyday life. Kids begin to see them as approachable and relational, interacting with them in a way that would not be possible outside of the camp experience. Part of the job of the chaplain is just to be present – to get in a kayak or hike to the cave or play a game of GaGa ball. They laugh and tell stories and share wisdom. There is a level of trust that is built over the week so that campers feel confident and comfortable asking questions, expressing doubts, and seeking advice. Chaplains also lead devotions with our summer staff every week, providing them with a bit of spiritual encouragement and engagement as they pour into campers week after week. Finally, they lead a short message summarizing the day’s Bible study theme at worship each evening.
Of course, we also want a chaplain’s week at camp to be one of respite and retreat, a chance to spend quiet time among creation, to take a nap in the middle of the day or walk the labyrinth in prayer. Chaplains can feel free to structure their week and time however they need, whether that looks like work, rest, or play. They stay in their own room in our retreat center, complete with comforts like air-conditioning, wifi, and a kitchen. The week is just as encouraging and rejuvenating for our chaplains as it is for our campers!